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The art magazine from Gallen/ Delta 

AUb' Z 7 ?fl09 

No 1 


September 1994 

2 Artnotes 

3 Robert Paul at 110 Livingstone Avenue 
by Colette Wiles 

6 An Englishman abroad — the artist Robert Paul 

by Colin Style 

8 Space and place — structure and romanticism in 
the work of Robert Paul 
by Pip Curling 

12 1894-1994 100 years at 110 Livingstone Avenue 

13 Gallery Delta at Robert Paul's house 
by Derek Huggins 

17 To those who helped — thank you 

18 Pleasure and privilege 
by Peter Jackson 

20 Reviews of recent work and forthcoming 
exhibitions and events 

Cover: Robert Paul, Quarry, 1956, 91 x 76 cm, oil on 
canvas. Left above: Robert Paul. Below: Tapfuma Gutsa, 
San King, 2.65m, mixed metals. 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins Editor: Barbara Murray Design 
Team: Barbara Murray, Myrtle Mallis & Robert Thompson. 
Typesetting: Visa Graphics Origination & printing: A.W. 
Bardwell & Co Colour: Colorscan (Pvt) Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not 
be reproduced in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of 
the writers themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery 
Delta, the publisher or the editor 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, P.O. Box UA 373, 
Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (14)792135. 


Welcome to the lirst issue of Gallery. 
This new magazine hopes to fill a gap 
which we feel in the visual arts 
community of Zimbabwe. There have 
been many endeavours over the years to 
produce local arts publications. Arts 
Rhodesia (\91^),Arts Zimbabwe (\9n), 
ZED magazine ( 1 980s), The Artist 
( 1 990s) and Smtthem African Art 
(1990s) to name a few. But all have gone 
out of print on account of finance allied 
with lack of readership or lack of 
continuity. So why create another? 
Despite the problems, the fact remains 
that the arts in Zimbabwe, in Africa, 
need publications to record, review, 
criticise and publicise the activities and 
work of creative individuals. 

As artists, art lovers, art patrons we are 
all aware of the complexity and 
ambiguity of images as well as the 
diverse responses of viewers. We feel the 
pleasure, stimulation and excitement of 
"seeing something". We want to 
understand what the artist is trying to 
express, how our society impinges on 
creativity, the effects of art on our 
individual and collective consciousness. 
Experiences and thoughts have less 
impact in isolation We need to 
communicate with one another and to 
promote the view that art criticism is 
"not an exercise of judgement but rather 
an act of empathy." 

Gallery aims to; 

• document Zimbabwe's art history in 
the making 

• stimulate a wider interest in art 

• promote discussion and awareness of 
work being produced by Zimbabwe's 
talented young artists 

• provoke debate and encourage 
exchange of opinion by placing art in 
its social context 

• capture the larger cultural resonance 
so that people who don't spend their 
lives within the art community can 
participate and benefit through 
greater understanding and 

• write with enough passion so that 
people will want to go and see for 

• give insight into how artists think 
and work, their ideas and techniques 

• link Zimbabwe's visual culture with 
that of other cultures both regional 
and international. 

The emphasis oi Gallery will be on 
painting, graphics and sculpture plus 

some coverage of architecture, design, 
jazz, little theatre and poetry. We will 
include reviews of events and 
exhibitions, news from the local and 
regional art scene, interviews with local 
and visiting artists, in-depth analysis of 
both recent and past work, cntical 
appreciation and discussion of a range of 
topics of interest to artists, art patrons 
and the wider public. 

We also intend to open up Zimbabwean 
perceptions of the changing international 
art scene and to seek its relevance to us. 
We have numerous artists visiting 
Zimbabwe including recently two 
sculptors, one from India and one from 
Barbados. Both gave good slide-talks 
about their work but at the time there 
was no way of reaching the wider public 
Gallery will in future issues review such 
events Regional topics will be covered 
by writers such as Marion Arnold whom 
we all remember as one of Zimbabwe's 
best art critics, and Tessa Colvin also 
well-known locally. From the UK, we 
will publish articles by Margaret Garlake 
and Keith Murray who are familiar with 
both the local and the British art scenes. 
Writers from other African countries as 
well as from Australia and Canada will 
also contribute. We hope to spread the 
network as widely as possible. 

This first issue has a narrow focus as a 
special celebration of the centenary of 
Robert Paul's old house, recording its 
rebirth as an energetic art centre and 
featunng Paul's life and work. 
Forthcoming issues will be broader in 
scope including such articles as Berry 
Bickle's views on art, an in-depth 
assessment of the annual 'Heritage' 
exhibition and its supposed role in 
setting standards, Steve Williams with 
art news from Bulawayo, critical 
appraisal of paintings by Luis Meque 
and Thomas Mukarobgwa (both of whom 
are about to be launched onto the 
European market while their work goes 
largely unrecorded locally), controversial 
opinions about our status quo from 
recently graduated students, and views 
on cultural identity from Trevor Gould, a 
conceptual artist and white African now 
living in Canada 

At present the art scene is in a state of 
flux with a new director at the National 
Gallery. We have another political 
appointment and, while we may query 
the suitability of a professor of 

linguistics for the post, it is a fait 
accompli. If, however. Professor Kahan 
can use his political and diplomatic skills 
to improve the National Gallery's 
standing in government eyes, persuade 
them to increase the pathetic budget 
(particularly infuriating when we are 
constantly subjected to empty rhetoric 
about the government's belief in the 
importance of culture!) and bring a 
larger public into the art gallery, his 
appointment may be advantageous. We 
shall have to wait and see. Professor 
Kahari has the services of an active and 
committed Board member in Pip 
Curling If he uses her knowledge, 
energy and skill there may be the 
makings of a good start. 

Beginnings are also taking place at the 
Goethe Institute and the Alliance 
Fran^aise which both have new cultural 
directors. Their impact on the local art 
scene can be considerable. The Goethe 
Institute is already playing an active role 
with its promotion of the recent Adda 
Geiling exhibition and the commission 
of three artists to produce work for 
pennanent display within its offices 

Gallery is another beginning. Art 
publications are by their nature 
expensive to produce and limited in 
circulation. We are seeking sponsorship 
to sustain the publication and improve its 
content, quality and circulation in the 
succeeding issues to which ue are 
already committed. In essence we are 
another bunch of optimists hoping to 
meet the need that exists. It feels like the 
right time Response has been 
encouragingly positive with more than 
one hundred of you subscribing in faith 
— thank you! And also, to all those who 
helped in so many different ways in 
getting Galleiy together and into print, 
many thanks We look forward to your 
comments on this first issue and your 
contributions to following issues are 
actively sought so that we can give voice 
to the wide range of opinion on the 
visual arts. Please contact me via Gallery 
Delta or send letters and articles for 
consideration. Gallery is your magazine. 
Together we can make it stimulating and 

The Editor D 

Spatters of oil paint, 
piles of abandoned 
sketches and paintings, 
Colette Wiles remembers 
life with her father 

Robert Paul at 110 Livingstone Avenue 

Among my strongest memories of life at 
1 10 IS the memory of Robert pamting in 
tiie early morning light near the comer of 
the verandah next to his bedroom and 
studio at the west end of the house. There 
he would be in his paint-spattered 
dressing gown, brush in hand, bent 
slightly over the rickety old deal table 
which leant against the wall, a study in 
concentration as he took a step back to 
view the results, his distinguished greying 
head tilted slightly in critical appraisal 
The morning sun threw good light on his 
work, and on the dust and rubbish that 
accumulated everywhere - the spatters of 
oil paint on the table, empty turps bottles, 
abandoned canvases, egg shells (broken 
in making the egg tempera he used), 
cigarette stubs, the browning edges of 
abandoned water colours, many of them 
half finished, some barely begun, fonning 
a pile beneath the one he was working on 
Robert's old wooden easel used to be 
propped against one of the brick pillars 
and at one time was the favoured perch of 
a Lizard Buzzard Returning home with a 
friend one night, Robert noticed an 
injured bird in the road, picked it up and 
brought it back to 110 where it lived 

freely and uncaged in that part of the 
verandah. It would perch on the easel, 
expressing its displeasure, until it 
recovered from its wounds and flew away. 

Roberts mood when painting was 
positive, forward-looking, challenged; a 
great contrast to the intervening 
despondency when he would not touch a 
drawing or painting for weeks, declaring 
that he could not stand painting anyway; 
that for him it was a compulsion It was a 
compulsion that was with him from 
childhood: he was aware of light, colour 
and texture from his earliest days Two 
superbly executed pictures, both snow 
scenes, sophisticated and atmospheric, 
survive, painted when he was a boy of 
about ten 

After breakfast at the circular oak table 
which was the focus of family life and 
which was set in front of the fireplace 
between the front door and the kitchen 
door, Robert would sit m his comfortable 
brown armchair opposite the propped-up 
painting He would study the work with a 
benign, almost content expression for a 
long time, then pick it up, take it back to 

Above: Robert Paul, Self Portrait, 

oil on canvas. 

Right: Snow scene painted 

when Robert Paul 

was about 

1 years of age. 

Top: Part of 

the front verandah 

that was 

Robert Paul's studio. 

Above: Robert Paul 

asleep in the 

garden of 110. 

the table on the verandah and continue 
working on it for three or more hours, 
still clad in his dressing gown Sometimes 
at a loss as to how to proceed, he would 
ask Dreen for her opinion - "...perhaps a 
bit of cloud there to fill the space". He 
would alter it as suggested and then 
mvariably say "Now you've made me 
stuff it up!" 

At 10.30 a.m. Robert would swear that he 
could hear the pub doors opening, stop 
working, get dressed and drive up to one 
of the clubs to meet fnends in the bar 
where he would stay till lunchtime. 
Sometimes when work was progressing 
well he didn't go to the pub but went 
back to his chair, seated with his arms on 
the wooden armrests, a gin and tonic in 
his right hand, scarcely taking his eyes 
away from the painting balanced against 
the sofa in front of him. 

When his painting moods were with him, 
the house was more or less taken over: 
the air was redolent with the foul smell of 
size being boiled up over a little hot-plate 
in the kitchen, the bathroom would have 
oil paint everywhere, brushes being 
cleaned in the bath, and often the bath 
itself filled with paintings undergoing the 
water treatment (removal of the unwanted 
areas of a painting by the process of 
gum-resist). Another smell which 
pervaded the house was linseed oil, added 
with turps as part of the medium to the oil 
paint. The raw linseed oil had to be 
purified and Robert used to do this by 
pouring the oil onto a saucer and placing 
it somewhat precariously atop the 
corrugated iron sheets forming the 
kitchen roof (now the back verandah) to 
bleach in the sun He was very interested 
in not only the techniques but also the 
materials used in painting and read about 
these avidly. He kept a collection of art 
books in his 'studio'. 

The room which was actually the 'studio' 
was a small enclosed area of the 
verandah, but it very quickly filled up 
with rolls of paper, paintings and artists" 
materials As Robert painted, so he 
retreated out of the room itself and onto 
the verandah, and when that became full, 
his bedroom was next! There were 
paintings and drawings everywhere, piled 
against bedroom walls, under Robert's 
bed, even His bedroom was seldom 
cleaned He refused to put anything away, 
and Dreen refused to sweep and dust until 
he had done so, so month after month saw 
increasing levels of dust, with papers, odd 
sketches, paintings, bits of charcoal, 
correspondence, bar receipts, empty 
cigarette cartons and general detritus 

occupying every surface. When I could 
stand it no longer, I would announce my 
intention of cleaning out my father's 
bedroom, he would complain bitterly at 
first, however, once into the spint of it, 
Robert would join in the tidying session, 
throwing away with great gusto tliose 
sketches, drawings and paintings which 
he considered to be no good (most of 
them); piling them high into the dustbin 
situated in the sanitary lane at the back of 
the house. I can remember then visiting 
the dustbin with my mother, giggling 
together as we retrieved some of the 
paintings and sketches with comments of 
"you never know - Robert may one day 
become famous. Let's save these just in 
case." And the rescued work would be 
stashed away in the loft near the east 
bathroom - again gathering dust until 
some of them were dug out for the 
Retrospective Exhibition in 1976. 

Robert's bedroom was probably the room 
of greatest character in the house. It is 
now a respectable office/gallery, but was 
remembered vividly by all who passed 
through it - the shambles of dust, unmade 
bed, paintings and generally dishevelled 
appearance - a complete contrast to 
Robert himself, who always looked 
immaculate even when he had slept in his 
suit, which he did regularly! When 1 had 
left home, married and was working in 
England my mother sent wonderfully 
descriptive and hilarious letters of events 
at 110. One letter described a particularly 
heavy session at the Sports Club the night 
before. Mum wrote "Robert woke up this 
morning not only with a strange woman 
in his bed, but a strange dog, too! " 

Perhaps 1 10 was originally like so many 
other Avenue houses - strictly functional, 
rather dark and slightly depressing. 
However, it was unlike any of the other 
houses in that it was large and long, and 
the garden was generous in size Until the 
late 1940s there were always tenants 
occupying various parts of the house and 
at one stage the big living room was 
halved by a thick enormous curtain to 
create more rooms for tenants Dreen 
never had any domestic help. When we 
lived in the east wing, she would have to 
chop wood to feed the old boiler for hot 
water to do the washing in the old cast 
iron bath with claw feet now standing in 
the back courtyard of Gallery Delta. The 
old coal stove was used to heat heavy 
metal irons for all the ironing. 

The family was able to spread out once 
we occupied the whole house (apart from 
the cottage), but Dreen's workload 
doubled; the house was impossible to 

keep clean. Everything in it was 
second-or-third-hand All the tloor boards 
were warped, which meant that the 
carpets were cleaner, but barer, over the 
upward curving edges of the boards and 
since sweeping seemed to produce more 
rather than less dust, this was kept to a 
minimum! Dreen did all the washing up 
outside on a concrete surface which she 
built herself adjacent to a low garden wall 
made entirely of gin, brandy and vodka 
bottles! Observing this, a fnend of the 
family once commented that the kitchen 
garden was pure Tennessee Williams! 
Dreen was adept at adhoc improvements, 
removing iron roof sheets to let more light 
into the living room and getting water to 
the kitchen by a hose pipe fed through the 
window from the bathroom boiler Robert 
insisted on three cooked meals a day 
which she always provided. And then 
there were many hours spent working in 
the garden. One day Dreen and I decided 
to build a small pool, which is still there, 
to cool off after the heavy digging 
sessions. Yet she still had plenty of energy 
for tennis and was always ready to join in 
any parties. 

The house itself was not an ideal one for 
entertaining and indeed it was never used 
for that in the accepted formal sense 
People would just pop in and stay for 
hours They sat around the circular oak 
dmmg table in the middle of the living 
room drinking and talking till it graduated 
into an impromptu, full-blooded party At 
these sessions there would be much 
laughter and witty conversation, although 
later it might degenerate to more 
argumentative levels. If the visitors were 
fellow artists, the talk would often be 
about art - Dad would talk eloquently for 
hours about techniques, materials and so 
on, and indeed, 1 think it was the only 
subject he ever accorded serious lengthy 

In those days there was very little art 
consciousness, anyone who was an artist 
was by definition somewhat odd, a misfit 
given to Left Bank excesses, a Bohemian 
However Robert didn't fit any of these 
categories, and his painting was simply 
accepted as part of life at 110 As small 
children, my brother and I attended David 
Livingstone School, just over the road 
Perhaps because we realised that our 
household was rather unorthodox, not on 
account of Robert's artistry, but because 
of the individualism and occasional wild 
revelry of our parents, we did not invite 
friends home very often. One deeply 
embarrassing episode was when a 
schoolfriend wanted to come home with 
me at lunchtime. As we walked across the 

road from school, I was already a little 
apprehensive about the visit. If my father 
had had a few drinks he was quite likely 
to say something embarrassing. We 
timidly entered the living room and 
approached Robert who was in his 
armchair, slumped drunkenly and reading 
the telephone directory upside-down' 
Fortunately, he was too drunk to say 
anything disparaging... but 1 shall never 
forget my friend's utter wide-eyed 
amazement at this odd apparition She 
came from a very upright household, and 
had probably never seen anyone drunk in 
her entire life. 

Over the years the garden at 1 10 became 
more and more overgrown Robert's only 
interest in the garden was painting it A 
friend recalls; "Robert once went with his 
brother on a painting tour in England. 
They would stop, then go on a bit further, 
and then over the hill which looked more 
interesting, and then a bit further still, 
imtil they had covered four counties in 
this way without painting anything And 
then Robert got back to Africa and found 
everything he ever wanted m his own 
back garden! " 

Holidays were a great treat. Early 
holidays were spent in Beira In those 
days we went by train and Rhodesia 
Railways moved mighty slowly! When it 
reached Macheke, the train stopped and 
everyone got out, including the driver, 
and headed straight into the nearby hotel 
pub Travelling by train was a hot, thirsty 
business. Robert was very interested in 
the Portuguese architecture in Beira and 
sketched the houses with their balustraded 
gardens along the roads He loved Nyanga 
and spent many holidays there with the 
family, and also with Paul just fishing and 
painting The kaleidoscopic colours of 
Nyanga fascinated him and he particularly 
loved the deep rust colours of some of the 
dirt roads there Because he was away 
from the stresses of work, his moods on 
holiday were generally tranquil, and he 
was able to paint and sketch to his heart's 
content But he was unpredictable 
Sometimes on returning home to 110, he 
would be depressed and moody and not 
paint again for days. 

1 10 Livingstone Avenue was a house of 
great character, given it by the colourful 
personalities living there What would 
Robert say if he could see it today? 
Something dry, witty, otT-hand, coarse 

maybe. 'Tt was Dreen's ing house 

anyway." But deep inside would be a 
swelling pnde in and gratitude for the 
acknowledged tnbute to him and his life's 
work CD 

Above: Dreen 

fixing the chimney 

at 110 Livingstone Avenue. 

Below: Robert Paul 

at a party (1977?). 

Robert Paul, The Montclair, 1979 

Colin Style looks at the 

Interconnections in the life, 

character and work of the 

artist Robert Paul (1906 - 1980) 

An Englishman Abroad 

My first acquaintance with, arguably, Southern Africa's greatest 
artist was when I was about ten years old My family's old home 
in then Rhodesia stood, and still stands, on the crown of a hill 
overlooking Harare in the distance with an orchard, fields and the 
Mukuvisi River in between. Robert Paul was standing on the lip of 
the hill in front of the house executing a water colour of the view. 
Three or four of us children wandered up and stood around 
breathing chewing gum on and staring at his efforts He was not at 
all put out. In fact, he was rather pleased and chatted to us 
unselfconsciously as he painted I remember him remarking that 
he was painting the sky brown to reflect the fields - it seemed a 
rather strange and wonderful comment and I must confess that we 
tapped our foreheads derisively. 

Robert Fowler Paul was bom on 1 2 March 1 906 in Sutton, Surrey. 
He began painting at the age of eight, winning a Daily Express 
competition for young artists. Only towards the end of his life did 
more honours come his way He went to school at Monkton Combe 
near Bath and on leaving took up a series of dreary clencal jobs ui 
London Mercifully for his sanity, he did not stick them for long 
and, in 1927, he joined the British South Africa Police as a rookie 
trooper and went out to then Rhodesia. 

His talents were recognised in the Police. He was employed as a 
cartographer to sketch from horseback and he spent some years 
roaming and charting the Save Valley and other remote comers of 
the country. Few artists can have been so saturated with landscape 

in learning tlieir trade. Later, he joined the pay corps in the army, 
retiring in 1951 as a pensionable 'twenty year man'. He then 
painted more or less happily until the end of his life He died in 
1 980, at the age of seventy four. 

Although he was a most dedicated artist, he did have a nihilistic 
tendency to lose interest when a canvas was completed Frequently 
pictures would be dumped in the wind and the rain or left m the 
outside shed to the attentions of the white ants. Fortunately, his 
wife Dreen and daughter Colette early on took an interest in their 
safe-keeping and tucked pictures away in a dry, insect-free spot in 
the eaves. 

He had a long range correspondence and friendship dating from 
the 1920s, with John Piper who was a major influence and 
introduced him to modem art and the teclmique of gum resist which 
became a significant part of his painting method. 

Robert Paul was almost purely a landscape painter. Not only in 
subject but by evacuating all animal and human life from his 
scenes. This absence serves both aesthetic effect and meaning and 
message. Nothing must detract from the arrangement of pure 
masses. The absence is to obtain intensity of focus and 
concentration and a mood of pure gravitas without any lapse into 
unbecoming detail. There is no compromise with the total artistic 
achievement of arranging the absolute essence of what he sees and 
wants to see. For all the sarcastic humour and work full of 
celebrations of colour, he is not a sunny artist. It was remarked of 
him 'the visions roll out of him'. This was allied to a subjective 
feeling that the visions have never quite communicated. For all 
their colour and beauty, his landscapes can reflect a feeling of 
barren alienation. In a picture like Inyanga 1 966 it is not a question 
so muchof 'light breaking where no sun shines' butof not lighting 
up where it should. The laws of nature have ceased to operate. 
Although the skies are full of light the mass of the landscape 
remains dark Ambiguously, the artist suggests both the infusion 
of light from genesis starting to spread through creation, and the 
afterglow with light withdrawing the vital spark. In another 
landscape, also prosaically called Inyanga 1950, the composition 
is of opposing blocks of colour. They all meet at the foothills at 
one neutral point where all energy is nullified. He also varied speed 
of execution to express his vision. Sometimes cold and monolithic, 
sometimes like vibrant masses of lava, he experimented again and 
again with the same landscapes. 

He was possessed of a remarkable artistic memory sharpened by 
the years of exact cartographical work. He told one of his mentors. 
Professor Brian Bradshaw, of a scene he remembered, from fifty 
years before, of an English landscape. Paul described it in minute 
detail, down to the dew on the grass. 

His type of style and vision was moulded by the Nyanga mountains 
in the eastern highlands of the country. He was a unique interpreter 
of the sparsely populated landscape with its magnificent views of 
rock masses, mountains and waterfalls The austere scenery with 
its combination of bright sunlight, yet high rainfall and frequent 
mists, was artistically rewarding yet exacting It suited him well 
Other more commercial landscape artists in the country exploited 
what has been called the 'msasa and piccanin' vein of Zimbabwean 
art. Bright, soft and sentimental pictures that prominently feature 
the msasa tree which produces a not of seasonal red and autumnal 
coloured leaves. Robert Paul however, would have none of it. 

As his health began to fail in the late seventies, and the escalating 
war in Zimbabwe cut him off more and more from Nyanga, his 
work, paradoxically, began to both diminish and to grow. Canvases 

were left unfinished and unsigned. He was abdicating even as he 
painted on The reversion to an earlier style expressed itself in 
jagged strokework exploding from the ground like 'dragons' teeth. 
It was completely different from the study and modelling of broad 
masses of rocks, hills, and savannah as expressions of creation 
maturing or decaying Yet, the eye and vision is manifestly the 
same. It is a tour de force of communication to alter style and 
remain so distinctly himself He was always his own man. 

A further, more subtle difference expressed in a work like The 
Montclair, dated 1979, puts jagged, churning brush-strokes up- 
front in the immediate foreground Hitherto he always tended to 
maintain an objective focus by keeping the foreground neutral and 
devoid of artistic excitement. Prone to hypochondria and a dread 
of death all his life, he was coming to terms with finality in his 
own way Actually, The Montclair, which is a hotel in Nyanga, had 
been attacked by guerrillas that year, who burst into the 
dining-room and shot down guests. Although the picture is called 
by the name of a hotel, no hotel buildings are visible in the erupting 
landscape. It is painted in a furious, shorthand idiom. 

Paul took away buildings as well as human and animal life from 
his landscapes. However, he developed urban houses and buildings 
as a separate subject with great success. His studies of these are 
also emptied offeatures that could reduce concentration -no folksy 
touches of children playing on corners. Again there is this 
uncompromising gravitas. Reticence and economy are important 
methods of artistic message. What is left out can be as important 
as what is put in 

Many, if not most, of his house and building studies are of the 
colonial style of the turn of tlie century. A number of the buildings 
have since been demolished. They often carry an air of listlessness. 
Paul's houses appear empty not only at the moment of record, but 
convey the curious impression, even as they are solidly 
constructed, of having been abandoned for decades. Within the 
pleasing, naturalistic presentation of a building, he switches blocks 
of light and shade and selects minimal lines to capture the essential 
emotive and aesthetic aspects of colonial rococo 

Although Robert Paul passed his life in a remote, unimportant 
country, largely unregarded as an artist as he painted picture after 
picture of Nyanga landscapes, he did have his mentors. Frank 
McEwen was appointed director of the then Rhodesia National 
Gallery in the 1960s At a cocktail party, McEwen remarked to an 
uncle of mine, an old friend of the artist, that Robert Paul was one 
of the finest artists in Africa. Many years later the Gallery 
appointed Professor Brian Bradshaw as Director. He held 
essentially the same opinion as Frank McEwen. In 1976, under his 
impetus, the National Gallery arranged an exhibition of two 
hundred of Robert Paul's works - his wife and daughter's loving 
care was starting to pay off. Then, in 1980, the year he died, the 
National Gallery of South Africa gave him an exhibition at their 
gallery in Pretoria It was the first time a Zimbabwean artist was 
so honoured 

However, the ball has really only started to roll in the thirteen years 
since his death. A few years before he died, you could pick up a 
decent Robert Paul for a couple of hundred dollars In 1991, 
paintings from the exliibition to commemorate Robert Paul on the 
opening of new Gallery Delta at his old house, were changing 
hands at Z$ 10,000 and this was considered conservative pricing 
It is evident that distinction is allied to popular appeal The stage 
could be set for this important artist to achieve international 
recognition. It would be a return from exile of an Englishman 
abroad LH 

Those who know the vastness 

of the African landscape understand that it is indefinable in human 

terms. Man is puny by comparison with this land. 

It is better for him not to intrude. 

By excluding the figure, which would act as a measure of 
scale, Paul is never forced to define those forms which are 
monumental and those which are diminutive. 

For Paul even the smallest rock or sprig of grass had 
its own grandeur. 

Robert Paul, Rocks at Inyanga (II), 1969, 86 x 53 cm, oil / tempera on canvas 

Space and 


Structure and romanticism in 

the paintings of Robert Paul 

discussed by Pip Curiing 

Robert Paul, The Pool, 1976, 77 x 64 cm, oil on canvas 

Robert Paul came to Africa in 1927 from an England which was, 
for him, narrow, populous and restrictive Although he had no 
formal training there as a painter, he brought with him, as did many 
early colonisers,' the English tradition of reverence for the 
landscape as a subject for paintmg. Paul left Britain at a time when 
the people of that country were experiencing a reaction against the 
city and a desire to get back to nature in its untamed state Even 
the suburbs, which were designed and built to get people out of 
the city, were themselves eroding the countryside [Spalding 1 986: 
70) Robert Paul took a bolder step than the suburban dweller who 
bought a country cottage as a weekend retreat; he left for Africa 

Paul's interpretation of the African landscape suggests a 
dislocation between his love of its space and grandeur and an inner 
feeling of alienation in a hostile environment.' Many of his mature 
landscape paintings in Zimbabwe were of the underpopulated 
areas of the Nyanga mountains or the bleak, baobab-inhabited 
planes of the lowveld His deliberate avoidance of the human 
element in these paintings could, on one level, be that of the 
archetypal European coloniser who ignores the existence of the 
indigenous people but could equally be expressive of the soul of 
an Englishman coming into contact with the spintual munificence 
of a land unsullied by industnal excrescence and waste The 
former theory might be more politically fashionable in the present 
day but the latter is more likely to be the truth ' 

A close examination of the paintings of Robert Paul dispels the 
popularly held belief that he was an intuitive artist, driven to make 
art at the whim of his muse." There is every evidence, in his work, 
that Paul was an intellectual painter who, although he responded 
emotively to the landscape, finely tuned his response with formal 
pictorial structures. 

Robert Paul understood the laws of two-dimensional composition 
and he used them. His familianty with the norms, conventions and 
inventions of twentieth century painting probably came through 
his conversations and correspondence with John Piper and Ivon 
Hitchens and from his own reading and study of art works ' 
Hitchens, whose painting seems closer to Paul than that of Piper 
with whom Paul had the longer acquaintance, was a member of 
the Seven and Five Society. This group published a manifesto 
when it held its first exhibition in which they stated, "The object 
... is merely to express what (the artists) feel in terms that shall be 
intelligible, and not to demonstrate a theory nor attack a tradition." 
ISpalding 1986: 63| Norbet Lynton says of Hitchens' landscape 
paintings, "Between the scene and the painting lie several steps 
of transformation" [1993: 54] This is also true of Paul who 
constructed his work by underpainting, layering, scumbling and 
glazing; working in his studio, to distil the essence of the 
landscape from sketches he had made on site.' In the years 
following his visit to England in 1948, Paul made a series of 

Robert Paul, Summit of Inyangani, 1967, 122 x 91 cm, oil /tempera on hardboard 

abstract-figurative compositions based on the landscape, buildings 
and street scenes {Landscape 1958) He said in an interview with 
Colin Black for Illustrated Life Rhodesia, "I had my abstract 
period without success." [Black: 31] His dismissal of what he calls 
his 'abstract period' should not be interpreted as a rejection of 
structured picture making per se but is probably an indication that 
the distanced formalism of the genre was, for him, insufficient 
Krom the late 1 950s he pursued a more figurative rendering of the 
landscape but the pictorial disciplines learned dunng his 'abstract 
period" remained. He must have been aware, even before he 
attempted abstraction, that Piper had already abandoned it Piper's 
own experience of the usefulness of the fomialism of abstraction 
may have persuaded Paul to follow that path 

"Bv 1938 the looming war made the clear hut 
closed world of abstract art untenable for me... 
The abstract practice taught me a lot that I would 
not have learned without it..." 

[Ingrams & Piper 1983: 22] 

Piper spent the summer of 1 946 in Snowdonia, Wales He returned 
to Nortli Wales the following year. For Piper the Welsh mountains 

were intensely dramatic and sensational: 

' 'Each rock had a positive personality: for the first 
time I saw the bones and the structure... of the 
mountains." [Ingrams & Piper: 1983 105) 

In 1948 Paul spent several months in the company of John Piper. 
Piper's previous involvement m abstraction and his enthusiasm for 
his recent discovery of the bleak and uninhabited landscape of 
Wales was surely the impetus which drove Paul to the path he was 
to follow after his return from Britain. 

Summit of Inyangani 1967,' (also known as Inyangani) is a good 
example of the period when Paul had found his subject, the rugged 
landscape, and was most comfortable with his mixed media 
technique of gum and oil resist 'The composition of tins painting, 
as with many of Paul's works, is tightly organised according to the 
'golden section'. An implied vertical left of centre begins on the 
peak of the background mountain, cuts through a gap in the ochre 
foliage below it, continues through the centre of the dark 
amorphous mass (which is tlie focal point of the composition) and 
ends at Uie protuberance of tlie pale foreground rock. This vertical 


'Robert Paul's Old House' 1 10 Livingstone Avenue / Ninth Street, 

Greenwood Park, Harare, Zimbabwe. 

(P. O. Box UA 373, Union Avenue) Tel: 792135 

1 Ike Centenary v^eie lb ration 
oi iiy IL^iTiingsfoiie Avenuie 

Robert Paul 110 Livingstone Avenue 1978 

with an exhibition of 

Paintings, Drawings and 

Graphics by 

Robert Paul & John Piper 

and the launch of 'Gallery' the new arts 

on Tuesday the 20th of September, 1994 at 

5.30 p.m. 

gallery delta 

Robert Paul 

Paul and Piper: together, even the names have 
harmony and it is interesting to draw a parallel 
of the lives of these two English painters. 

They were both born in Surrey in England — 
Robert Fowler Paul three years after John 
Piper, in 1906. Both were involved in art at an 
early age. In Paul's case, his love of painting 
and his talent was evident when he was 10 
years, when the Royal Academician, W.O. 
Wiley, expressed interest in his work and ad- 
vised his parents to ensure that he never took 
lessons. It seemed that both their fathers were 
strict Victorians; Robert could never do any- 
thing to please his, while Piper's father would 
not let him study art. In later years there was 
a remarkable resemblance: both were tall, trim and erect, and both had long, aristocratic 
features. Piper rather more gaunt than Paul. Each married twice Both were to draw and 
paint buildings and landscape. Both were to gain recognition as artists in different 
arenas — Piper in Britain and Paul in Africa — and finally, they were friends who 
maintained contact over a period of fifty years. 

In the 1920's Paul's painting and drawing was of a conventional kind — he described 
his work at that time as of an academic nature, and he did not become aware of the 
contemporaries until he met Ivon Hitchens and John Piper who introduced him to the 
works of Picasso and Georges Braquc, and this he claimed had some influence on his 
own work. Paul met Piper through a mutual friend. Miles Marshall, who attended the 
same public school as Paul: Monkton Combe, near Bath in Somerset. Marshall had met 
Piper in the General Strike in May, 1926, when Piper was driving an East Surrey 
omnibus of which he was the conductor! 

In 1927, a year after Piper entered the Richmond School of Art, Paul emigrated to 
Southern Rhodesia, having enlisted in the British South Africa Police as a trooper; here 
the lives of the two men diverged sharply. Rhodesia in those days was cut off from 
Europe in terms of artistic trends and it seems that Paul's main contact with what was 
happening in the art world was with his friend, Marshall. 

In the early 193()'s Marshall started to write to Paul about painting. After Paul's death, 
Marshall said: "We used to cover many sheets of the thinnest available Air mail paper 
in small writing about form, colour, composition and aesthetics What on earth we 
found to say that covered so much good clean paper, 1 am at loss to explain! 1 think 
Piper and Robert probably first met in the early 1930's when he was in England on 

John Piper 

John Egerton Christmas Piper was one of the most distinguished British artists of his 
generation. In a tribute to Piper, Martin Gayford described him as being in some ways 
among the most English of 20th century painters. "Indeed", he wrote, "he shares with 
one or two contemporaries — Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Eric Ravilious — the 
distinction of having revealed to the rest of us new aspects of our familiar surround- 

John Piper was bom in Epsom in 1903 and as a schoolboy at Epsom College he was 
interested in topographic drawing which is so marked in his later work. He used to 
accompany his father on rural expeditions from an early age and at the age of 10 he 
was tracing stained-glass windows in parish churches. But his father, a solicitor, 
refused to let him study art and it was not until 1926 that he entered the Richmond 
School of Art and later the Royal College of Art. 

In 1953 he was invited to join the Seven and Five, a group of painters and sculptors 
which included the elite of the English Modem Movement: Ben Nicholson, Henry 
Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ivon Hitchens. In the mid Thirties Piper was one of the 
"most determinedly radical and abstract painters in Britain; indeed, after Ben Nichol- 
son he ranks as the most distinguished abstract painters of the period." But he felt that 
abstraction was not for him. "Such things", he wrote to Paul Nash in 1943, "are 
disciplines which open a road to one's heart, but they are not the heart itself." 

He separated from the group to pursue his own path and he returned before the war to 
landscape subjects, particulariy on the South Coast and in Wales, but made them from 
collages of torn papers. By the early Forties his work had developed "an intense, 
elegiac romanticism which puts one in mind of Evelyn Wanch's Brideshead Revisited, 


leave. John's recollection of his first meeting with Robert was not as a fellow artist, 
but as a beer-drinking pal of mine. He recalls a trip to Chanctonbur>' Ring on the Susse.x 
Downs which the three of us made, but it was not a sketching party, just a walk to 
encourage our thirsts for Sussex ale." 

At that time Piper's work was exploratory and immature and it was later that Paul's 
interest in his work increased. He was also much attracted to the French modernist 
Pierre Bonnard and to Patrick Heron, but feeling that he was out of touch with current 
talents in Britain, he tried to be himself. Professor Brian Bradshaw was to say towards 
the end of the 1970's when Director of the National Gallery of Rhodesia: "Robert Paul 
is his own man." 

Paul did many sketches and drawings while he was with the services in Rhodesia but 
he did not have much time for painting, and was not then the prolific painter he became 
after his retirement in 1951. He then had thirty years to complete his work — of 
buildings, the Transkei Coast and the Inyanga Downs. 

Paul shared Piper's enthusiasm for buildings and was fascinated by the old commercial 
and domestic buildings in Rhodesia and Mozambique. He lived and painted at 110 
Livingstone Avenue, an early colonial house, for 43 years, where both his and a few of 
John Piper's paintings hung. At one time Paul was commissioned by Syfrets to produce 
a portfolio of paintings of the old buildings in the then Salisbury. Many of them have 
since been demolished. 

A major development in art-awareness in Rhodesia came with the building of the 
National Gallery in Salisbury in the late 1950's. The first director, Frank McEwen, said 
of the 'Quarry', painted by Paul and donated to the gallery- before it was opened: "This 
work gives me tremendous encouragement for the potential of art in Rhodesia." A local 
critic at the time complained that there was too little recognition for painters here and 
another stated that Paul "could hold his own in any international competition" and "all 
pictures show profound accomplishment in draughtsmanship, composition and tone 
values and are quiet outstanding. " Today, the National Gallery has thirty and more Paul 
paintings in its Permanent Collection. 

In 1965 Paul's work was exhibited at the Commonwealth Festival of Arts, London and 
in 1976 Paul's work was honoured by the National Gallery of Rhodesia in the first 
one-man retrospective exhibition ever to be held there. Paul was a shy, diffident man 
and when he viewed the extraordinary variety of his paintings assembled at the Gallery, 
he said "I was amazed when I saw them there. They looked so nice." 

Robert Paul was an exceptionally generous man and gave away many of his canvases 
to his friends and colleagues. In 1980, the year of his death, a selection of his works 
were exhibited in South Africa, and since his death, his work has been represented in 
Germany, at Gallery Delta, Harare and in 1982 his paintings appeared at last with those 
of the painters he had admired from five thousand miles away: Piper, Ivon Hitchens 
and others at the British Council supported exhibition of Neo Romantic Art at the 
National Gallery, Harare. He would have been so proud. I 

Robert Paul 

SL Swithins, Market Square 1971 Manica Road (Working dmwmgi (c. msi 

Haddon Hall (Fragment) 

Prince Edward School Chaps\ ' 


John Piper 

Back Garden, Malmsbury 21.3.57 

Church (Silk Screen 1/95) 

Church — "To Robert witli best wishes" 


Windsor Castle 


written at this time. Storm clouds lower over the baroque piles of Seaton Delaval and 
Sir Osbert Sitwell's Renishaw Hall. So overcast were the skies above his watercolour 
of Windsor Castle as to lead George VI to make the hesitant comment on inspecting 
them: "You've been very unlucky with the weather, Mr. Piper" In 1940 Piper was 
appointed an official War Artist with the special brief of recording bomb damage. 

Piper's work in the 1950's is less well-known in Britain, partly because he exhibited 
them in America, and some of the best painting are in American collections. Over the 
last thirty years or so he painted a profusion of vigorous landscapes in oil and gouache 
of Venice and of French Romanesque churches, but mostly of landscape and architec- 
ture throughout Britain. 

Piper's distinguished friends and collaborators included the poet John Betjeman, 
Osbert Lancaster, Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten; John Piper designed most of 
Britten's operas and his wife Myfanwy wrote a number of his libretti. Ten years ago 
Piper's work was shown at the Tate Gallery in London, in celebration of his eightieth 
birthday and the e.xhibition presented an extraordinary illustration of Britain from the 
1930's to 1984. Some of this work was sent to Harare and displayed at the National 
Gallery in an exhibition entitled "John Piper and English Neo Romanticism" along 
with works by other well-known British Artists and Zimbabwe's own Neo Romantic 
artist, Robert Paul. 

John Piper is well known for many excellent and distinctive works produced during 
his very active life: the Shell Guides, on which he collaborated with John Betjeman; 
the book illustrations; the designs for ballet, theatre and opera; the prints, aquatints and 
paintings; the stained glass, notably in both Coventry and Liverpool Cathedrals; the 
designs for tapestry and vestments; the ceramics and photographs. But perhaps Piper 
will be most remembered for his famous re-interpretation of the English tradition of 
Constable and Turner: the romantic watercolour paintings of the British countryside, 
houses and churches. 

He died in 1992 aged 89. Henry Thorold, in his obituary on Piper, wrote: "John was 
not only a most distinguished painter: he was also the most generous of friends and the 
most modest of men." I 

Acknowledgements to Anthony West and Martin Gayford. 

Robert Paul 

Mount Inyangani 


Transkei Coast (c. 1950's) 

Inyanga (197S) 

gallery delta M 

'Robert Paul's Old I loiisc' 1 1 Livingstone Avenue / Ninth Street, 

Greenwood Park, 1 hirare, Zimbabwe. 

(P. O. Box UA 373, Union Avenue) Tel: 792 135 

divides the landscape format at the golden mean.' Diagonals which 
lead the eye to the focal point are those of the large green hill shape 
on the right, the massed vegetation on the left, the rocks in the 
centre of the composition and the scratches of light coloured grass 
in the bottom left-hand comer. 

Spatial illusion is rendered through the alternating horizontal 
bands of light and dark in the overlapping rocks and plants in the 
foreground. Deep space is effected, usmg the High Renaissance 
technique of 'sfumato' in the far distant hills '° The middle ground 
is missing, apart from a small smudge of lighter colour 
immediately above the central rocks, at the foot of the large hill. 
More important than spatial illusion, is the spatial ambiguity 
evident in this painting. Deep space is suggested and then it is 
wilfully negated in order to assert both the flatness of the picture 
plane and a confrontation with the landscape. Flattening of 
illusionistic space and the acknowledgement of the reality of the 
picture plane is central to twentieth century modernism." The 
raised honzon in Summit of Inyangani suggests an elevated eye 
level which the close-up view of the rocks contradicts One is able 
to look across at the distant hills and down at the nearby rocks — 
a multiple viewpoint which, in keeping with modernist theories, 
denies the deep space of a single point perspective. The ambivalent 
viewpoint is also significant to the interpretation of the painting 
The higher eye level which sweeps into the distance perceives an 
arcadian dream — access to which is denied by lowering the gaze 
to become aware of the forbidding rocks in the foreground. Thus 
the viewer, an intruder in the landscape, is barred from intimacy 
with its splendour. 

In other landscape paintings, such as Inyanga Valley 1 970, where 
Paul does not create a foreground barrier, the distant rocks and hills 
are themselves aggressively menacing. The elimination of bold 
foreground shapes in this painting is compensated by the emphasis 
on those of the background. There is little other than bare earth in 
the foreground but the strongly defined, heavily outlined 
background granite hills move forward onto the picture plane. 

Colour in Summit of Inyangani, although not so in all of Paul's 
work, is literal, subdued and unromanticised. Grey rocks, darkened 
green hillside masses and ochre grass are the familiar colours of 
the winter Nyanga landscape.'' Texture in the rocks and the 
foreground scrub is created by the use of the gum resist technique 
Paul learned from John Piper. (Johnson: 60) Sombre colours and 
rugged textures are fundamental to the visual language with which 
Paul communicates the hostility of the land. Rocks and bushes are 
so near they can be touched but they are so granular, spiky and raw 
that one is rebuffed from coming too close. Simultaneously soft 
mists and wann light bathe and blur the harshness of the land The 
essence of Robert Paul's painting is ambiguity. In his work, 
illusionism exists but is made subservient to pictorial needs. The 
relationship between the scene and the observer is uncertain. Paul's 
landscape is enigmatic, as is much of Africa to the European 
sensibility. It calls to the spirit, but rebuffs complacency. Marion 
Arnold says, 

■ 'The physical environment . . . and the accessibility 
of the natural world has made a deep impact on 
most Europeans living in Southern Africa... the 
spectacular earth and rock formations and wild 
growth patterns of grass and trees have intruded on 
the apprehension of the visible world of many 
inhabitants. •■[Arnold 1981/1982: 47) 

Robert Paul may have used the pictorial constructs of European 
painting but he opened his heart to the African chimera whose 
manifestation he facilitated in the guise of paint, colour and form. 


i. Among the first of these were Thomas Baines and Alice Balfour. There has 
been no coherent 'movement' of painting in Zimbabwe to match that of stone 
sculpture. If any single aspect links many painters in the country it is that of 
the landscape. 

2. During his time with the British South Africa Police Paul was given the task 
of charting and mapping the Gweru-Masvingo area. He travelled and 
sketched on horseback patrols, usually of six-weeks duration. 

3. Two other notable painters have also looked to Nyanga. Thomas Muka- 
robgwa. who comes from the area, locates all his paintings there. Kingsley 
Sambo, whose favourite retreat was Nyanga, said "It is exciting, you know, 
that landscape... it's terrific." Many of the lesser landscape painters in 
Zimbabwe have rendered the Nyanga landscape but they have sweetened it 
with saccharine colours and soft outlines. 

4. Brian Bradshaw's poetic interpretation of Paul's paintings claims that, "The 
structures of their formation are not systematic as in grammar. They are too 
deep for that. Too earnest. Too sensitised. They are cataclysmic." 1 1978: 28] 

5. Paul first met Piper in the 1930s. In 1948 Paul visited England where he spent 
time with Piper and Hitchens and returned to Africa with several of Piper's 
paintings. (Johnson: 33| Contemporary English painting of the first half of 
the twentieth century was influenced, through the critical encouragement of 
Clive Bell and Roger Fry, by the formal innovations of modernism as devised 
by the French Post-Impressionist painters, particularly Paul Cezanne. 

6. Johnson notes that Paul would sketch while his son fished the Nyanga rivers. 

7. The author acknowledges that the correct current spelling is 'Nyangani' but 
chooses to use the spelling in the original title given to the work. 

8. Paul used combinations of oil and egg tempera as well as gum resist which 
he learned from John Piper. [Johnson: 60] In using gum resist as a technique 
water soluble gum is applied to the canvas and covered with water-resistant 
paint When the canvas is washed or 'hosed down' the gum dissolves and 
lifts the paint surface covering it. This creates a particular texture according 
to the way the gum was applied. 

9. The 'golden section' or golden mean was the name given in the nineteenth 
century to the proportion derived when a line is so divided that the whole of 
the line is to the greater section what the greater is to the less It is often 
claimed that the golden mean is aesthetically superior to all other proportions 
as it fulfils the criteria of unity in variety. [Osborne 1970: 488] 

10. Sfumato is the achievement of "smooth and imperceptible transitions 
between areas of colour like smoke dissolving in the air." [Osborne 1970: 

11. Paul Cezanne formulated a concept of multiple view points and the 
unification of the front and back planes of the landscape through the device 
he called 'passage'. This linked foreground and background into a unified, 
flattened, two-dimensional planar structure. Cezanne's pictorial means are 
present in Robert Paul's work indicating that Paul was conversant with the 
theories of modernism. It is quite possible that, through his association with 
English artists in 1948 Paul became aware of Cezanne's contribution to 
modernism and had a knowledge of the pictorial devices used by Cezanne. 

12. Most of Robert Paul's figurative landscapes were painted after 1965 when 
economic sanctions by the West were imposed on Rhodesia following the 
Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Sanctions resulted in a scarcity of 
imported paints and pigments. The colours in Paul's work suggest that he 
utilised the more common 'earth' pigments. These would have been 
available as they are the basic pigments of commercial and industrial paints. 


Arnold, Marion, 1981/82. Four Zimbabwean Painters. Arts Zimbabwe. No. 2. 

Black, Colin, 1970. Profile: Robert Paul - Hose that Canvas Down! Illustrated 
Life Rhodesia 9th April. 

Bradshaw. Brian, 1978. Robert Paul Arts Rhodesia. No. 1. 

Ingrams, Richard & Piper. John. 1983. John Piper in England & Wales. 
L^ondon: Chatto & Windus. The Hogarth Press. 

Johnson. Christopher. 1985. The Life and Work of Robert Paul. South Africa: 
Unpublished extended essay for the degree of Master of Fine Arts. Rhodes 

Lynton. Norbet, 1993. Landscape as Experience and Vision. Towards a New 
Landscape. London: Bernard Jacobson Limited. 

Osborne, Harold, (ed.) 1970. The Oxford Companion to Art. London: The 
Oxford University Press. 

Spalding, Frances, 1986. British Art Since 1900. London: Thames and Hudson. 


1894 — 1994 
100 years at 110 Livingstone Avenue 

1 894 Stand 1951 of Salisbury Township Lands granted to Edward Vigne by Deed of Grant no. 826 of 

1 9th May 

1 900 Transferred to George Andrew Tucker for 700 

1901 Transferred to Leonard Charles Wigg. Plans for alterations to link the existing buildings with a 
corrugated iron roof and timber supported verandah drawn up 

1902 Transferred to James Ffolliott Darling 
1907 Transferred to Robert Warner 

1912 Transferred to Transvaal and Rhodesia Estates Ltd 

1922 Transferred to Alfred Roland Cooke 

1928 ( 14th February )Transferred to Ethel Mary Cooper 

1928 (9th November) Transferred to Marie Louise Hawkings 

1 933 Occupied by Dreen Hawkings, daughter of Marie Louise 

1 937 Robert Paul moved in on his marriage to Dreen Hawkings 

1953 Transferred to Dreen Paul 

1980 Robert Paul died 

1 98 1 Dreen Paul died. House offered by Colette Wiles to Derek Huggins 
1983 Inhented by Colette Wiles and Paul Paul 

1991 Offered to Gallery Delta. Application for Change of Use to gallery purposes granted, 

renovations carried out and Gallery Delta inauguration 
1 994 Centenary of 1 10 Livingstone Avenue 

^^€^(J5 J(^ 

Luis Meque, 110 Livingstone Avenue, 1994, 29 x 21 cm, brush and ink 


From Manica Road Livingstone Avenue 

Robert Paul, 110 Livingstone Avenue, 1978, pen and Ink 

Notes on the transformation tal<en 
from letters by Derel< Muggins 

Gallery Delta at Robert Paul's House 

1st May 1991 

...It was early in the year - mid January - when I received the 
notification to vacate the space at Strachan's Building by the end 
of February. Happy New Year. My initial reaction, even although 
I had suspected it would come sooner or later, was of 
disappointment, anger and resentment. Having worked so hard and 
long to keep the gallery alive... And the thought of moving all the 
paraphernalia, even if one found a space to go to, seemed all too 
much. I thought about... leaving for Europe on walk-about... but 
it seemed sensible to keep the gallery alive, if possible, in another 
space providing that space was as good if not better than the one I 
had had for sixteen years. And so I sought an extension of the 
deadline until April end, sought legal advice as to my rights as a 
tenant if it came to a fight and began to look around for another 
space. But that did not come... The law here being sympathetic to 
sitting tenants there was always the possibility of sitting tight, 
accepting an eviction order and appealing which might take up to 
one year to resolve. I wrestled with that one but it gave me more 
peace of mind to resign myself to getting out rather than 
procrastinating. And once I had made that decision to go, new 
space or no, things began to open... and more latterly, the offer of 
Robert Paul's old house at 1 10 Livingstone Avenue as a gallery... 
The old house dates to 1 894, a settler's house rather than colonial, 
with a simple line - more like an old farm house and bam - and is 
rustic and now very dilapidated 1 used to visit Robert Paul there. 
He would be sitting just inside the front door drinking his gin and 
water, or vodka and water, or cane and water, and chain smoking, 
stubbing out the ends in a tin lid. "Have a dnnk," he would say 
And when I declined with the explanation that ten o'clock in the 
morning was too early he would be disgusted with me. A 
distinguished looking man with a fine face, quick mind and biting 
wit... Colette, Robert Paul's daughter, first offered me the house 
about ten years ago as a base for the Foundation. Recently, she had 

offered it again. When I went there for another look and sat in the 
lounge and thought about Robert Paul I got a tingle up the spme. 
The place can make a good gallery - it is an L shape - and is very 
walk through, having length and interesting areas... a big 
restoration and conservation job to do. There is the historical 
aspect - one of the few very early settlers' homes that still survive 
unaltered - and the art connection Further, that Colette and her 
brotherPaul, want to preserve it and turn it over to a useful function 
in deference to their father and their childhood there. And we have 
the basis of an agreement - the sharing of a concept - to restore and 
turn the old house into a gallery. 

19th June 1991 

...we begin to work in the garden 1 have always wanted to wield 
a machete in the jungle. Spent the last two days hacking away at a 
giant bougainvillaea creeper which has gone wild over the last fifty 
years or more. . . It will be a wonderful gallery in the end. Does one 
ever stop fixing? I am excited by the challenge and know I can fix 
it. It has got a very good feeling for me 

20th June 1991 

...The upshot of it all is that 1 am in with a chance for another space 
and a unique one at that. . . Much depends on how quickly I can get 
the front part of the house operational as a gallery so to make a 
start and have something to sell... I am akeady attached to the 
place and it lakes on warmth and friendliness more so every time 
I go there Maybe old Robert doesn't think I'm stupid after all. We 
shall of course have a room for his work as a little museum and 
shall call it Gallery Delta at Robert Paul's House. 

4th July 1994 

...The garden - about half an acre - had not been touched for 
years... we have been cleaning out the rubbish pit, sifting the 


Top: The side verandah 

Paul's old studio. 

Above: The front verandah at an 

early stage of reconstruction. 

Below: the building team. 

compost of plastics and bottles, taking out poor tree specimens, building 
rockeries and clearing a parking lot. We begin, after three weeks, to find we 
have some semblance of future order... Another week around the outside 
should have us feeling more comfortable and then I will begin inside There 
is a lot of work to do But the ideas start to come. There is an interesting 
area at the side with a wonderful old tree with great gnarled roots and where 
I think I shall establish a miniature theatre... And there is another enclosed 
area at the back - rather like the yard of a farmhouse - where we could have 
a patio and serve tea... So little by little there is some progress. 

23rd September 1991 

...A little over a month ago we moved into the house and began to fix the 
inside front. Chased out plaster in two rooms - the oldest "railway carriage' 
part - and replastered. Filled in some doorways, opened others. Repaired 
window frames and sills Floor boards repaired. Then turned to the front 
verandah and took the tin roof off to restore wood beams etc. At the moment 
they are still off while we wait for a friend to make timber columns as per 
the original plan Presently moving French windows to restore the onginal 
look to the front of the house... It is a big job, bigger than I anticipated and 
consequently taking longer than I had thought but we make progress... 
perhaps by November I can put in the first show. 

28th December 1991 

...more busy than ever with the restoration and repair work... There was 
the need to get a show in and open before the end of the year... It was a big 
job overall... but somehow we pulled everything together by the 3rd 
December when we opened with paintings and drawings by Robert Paul. I 
thanked a lot of people at the opening for their encouragement and support 
and in no small measure Charles and Antonio, the carpenter and his plasterer 
mate, and their aides, who had worked so wonderfully well. It was a splendid 
opening. A large and good natured crowd who put a seal of approval on 
all... The gallery is a success. It... works well for the display of art... we 
are in and operating... people say they are amazed, after the loss of our other 
old and quaint space, that we have been able to come up with another as 
good and better. The house has a very gentle and pleasant feeling to it... A 
strange year and a busy one in transition and striving patiently all the time 
to create somethmg new and good from the old... If I had had a million I 
could not necessarily have come up with this place or anything like it... It 
is better than I could ever have envisioned... 

12th March 1992 

...things become better organised and slip into a steady rhythm of 
exhibitions and restoration... work is concentrated at the rear of the 
premises... This part of the building was almost derelict, disused and had 
been badly vandalised by squatters who came over the back wall for shelter 
and tore up the floorboards and pulled out the windows to bum I walk 
around the house a dozen or more times a day to keep an eye on the progress 
of my small team of workers... They have done a very good and steady 
job... they seem able to fix everything little by little. Every day, every 
week, every month we progress and it will be done... When I started I did 
not know the end of it, nor even the middle, nor even the morrow but money 
has come on line as necessary and donations too, of bricks, guttenng, wood 
and other essentials When I think about it, when I sit and look at the front 
of the building, I remark to myself that it is better than I envisaged. The 
change is remarkable, although the character has not been lost... So far, in 
our new space we have mounted five exhibitions: Robert Paul, and the 
group Summer Show in December, Young Artists and Bickle/Caponnetto 
in February and a Graphics Show this month... If one has a project to work 
it becomes a way of life and one worries and thinks less. When the work is 
finished it will be a very good, indeed unique space and place. It becomes 
that way already 

15th March 1992 

...It was a scramble to open the gallery by the 3rd December but we had 
committed ourselves a month before. Artist friends sneaking a look at our 
colossal muddle thought we would never make it... We finished 


whitewashing the front walls at 4 p.m. on the day we opened at 5 30 p.m. 
so close was tlie call... plans are beanng fruit little by little. Robert Paul is, 
I think, happy - the feeling about and in this place is very good and 1 cannot 
help (thinking) it is meant to be. 

18th March 1992 

...In January we moved our repair and restoration operation to the very back 
of the stand - repairing walls, toilets, kia - so that it should be done before 
we ran out of money and energy Then dunng February, we moved into the 
very derelict old kitchen area ( 1 894) with local bnck of that time and dagga 
walls which, in places, with the rains and rotten gutters, had turned once 
again to soil and mud. More recently, this month, we have been working in 
the 1901 extension area at the rear bedroom and now we put in the ceiling 
and the roof back on the kitchen area... We are paving a parking area and 
path Quite active. The old house, while retaining its rhythm and character, 
is smartening up considerably. Already it makes a good and unique gallery 
and when we have finished the repairs - opening up the space - a floors, 
doors, windows and walls job, we shall have... accessibility all around the 
premises. We shall make a better kitchen, open up part of the rear verandah 
and build an auditorium at the side for a theatre for 100 audience Already, 
the theatncals are showing interest in the proposed intimate 'under the tree 
theatre on the other side'. It's a good project, seems right and Robert Paul's 
shade hasn't dropped any bricks yet. 

23rd May 1992 

...On Thursday last I was very happy. We pulled out the wall of the old 
kitchen... and what a difference it makes Light of the winter sunshme from 
the north now pours through the French window into the mam gallery - the 
old drawing room - and one has a much better view of the rear courtyard 
which now comes into play We have enclosed a small area of the rear 
verandah ourselves and knocked out what passed as a bathroom to create a 
new kitchen... The rear courtyard will become a space for the display of 
sculpture and the open rear verandah for relaxation. The character remains 
but we have lost the ageing, the patina so to speak, but this will recur in 
time Often I go to the end of the garden to sit and cast my eyes about the 
front of the house, over and along the simple 'railway carriage' verandah, 
to the red corrugated iron roof and the stalwart chimneys and across the two 
gables... How many times did I sit and wonder, when the verandah was off 
and the work there in progress, how it would look? 

7th August 1992 

...The major structural work has been completed and we begin to titivate - 
fascia boards, guttering, painting... We still have to bring on line one third 
of the space for exhibition purposes. Then we shall have sufficient space 
for changing and permanent collections. In the end we shall have saved what 
claims to be the oldest house in Harare - and if not the oldest, the most intact 
- which has historical, architectural and artistic background... to be used as 
an art and cultural centre... slowly we succeed. Meantime, we run 
exhibitions in part of the space to keep ourselves alive. 

30th September 1992 

...Over the last two weeks the gutters and down pipes have gone on - the 
eye lashes - in good time for the rains. More satisfying even, I was able to 
give the instruction to Charles, my building team foreman, to "Take down 
that wall", meaning the blocking wall in the hall. I had looked forward to 
it for a year Many years ago the wide hall, the major axis in the house, had 
been blocked, originally with tongue and groove ceiling board in which a 
little door had been cut, and subsequently by a red bnck wall and covered 
over with board, paper and paint. We uncovered all about a year ago but left 
the red brick wall to hide the dereliction behind it In December we knocked 
out one brick to provide a peep hole to view Michiel Dolk's installation of 
'House in Constniction' in tribute to Malevich, which he put within the 
derelict part, and later Rebecca Garrett's 'Dormant Space Waiting to Come 
to Life'. The old man, Madala Mozambique, took down the wall which he 
called the ant hill, layer by layer, to expose the 'new' renovated space on 
the other side. Revelation for all concerned. Suddenly the space came alive. 

Top: The back verandah 

area before and 

Above: after reconstruction. 

cross lighting working beautifully, as the two parts of the 
'L' were joined again. It was indeed a major 
breakthrough. . . We have now brought on luie all the extra 
space... Already Helen calls the new big room the 
'Cathedral Room'. It is set off by two magnificent tall 
double doors and high ceiling, and has a wonderful still 
feeling within. Today we commenced marking out the 
area to this side of the house which will become the 
amphitheatre... Want to excavate the old well also and if 
we get water we shall have a garden all year round. . . The 
use of the amphitheatre for meetings, lectures, slide 
shows, workshops, plays and music should give us an 
additional buzz. 

1st December 1992 

...we hurried to get the guttering on, to batten down the 
corrugated iron sheets... and to press on with the building 
of the amphitheatre and to dig and line the well before the 
onset of the rains... all our effort is presently about the 
theatre area which takes form and volume and shape, 
sweeping in a semi-circle towards and up to the belambra 
tree, the roots of which surround and grow over the 
opening to the well We have dug to twelve metres and 
more now... in all probability, the well had been the first 
job for those pioneer builders - to establish water supply 
- and... the yellow clay removed was to become 
sun-baked bricks for the onginal kitchen... 

31st December 1992 

...We finish the year as survivors with a great deal of 
consolidation gone before. At 110 Livingstone Avenue 


Top: The side of the old house 

before reconstruction. 

Above: The new theatre area. 

Below: A view of the 

new gallery at Its present 

state of completion. 

there is a sense of order... The amphitheatre is nearly finished - just the area 
around the tree and some stepping down to complete Crispen and his mates, 
Sebastian and Kosta, finished digging out the old well... at seventeen metres 
deep on rock bottom amidst rock walls... We let it fill and it did so, gurgling... 
within a week and up to about five metres from the top The water runs in, wells 
in through the rock It seems to be a good well worthy of two or three metres a 
day or four or five hundred gallons a day... We shall cap it soon and mount, 
hopefully, an old hand pump of the twenties as a feature, a practical one, in 
midst the tree roots and pump to a tank nearby and run it otT to the garden. 

21st February 1993 

...We worked January and into February to complete the amphitheatre... Took 
on the Black Umfolozi, a Ndebele song and dance act from Bulawayo, for the 
12th February to test the space and the acoustics... The space is most pleasant 
situated under the branches of the belambra, wild syringa and a lightning scarred 
msasa... We had some tensions with the Black Umfolozi promotion They were 
late to arrive and so we were unable to rig and set and test their lighting the 
night before. Then at about 5 o'clock we had a big storm with torrential rain, 
the dimmer board fused, and a short circuit in the wiring held us up for half an 
hour. We got away with it however, the rain disappearing and the stars 
appearing, and good old John Alsford fixing the circuits. In all we played six 
nights to good receptive audiences, somehow by the grace of God missing the 
heavy showers and storms that knocked about daily... 

7th March 1993 

...Last week we pulled up the front verandah floor - old bricks covered by a 
thin layer of cement - and re-laid it with concrete slab and mortar top with red 
oxide surface... we returned to the amphitheatre area where Michiel Dolk, the 
installation artist, has been for a week or two, translating his concept of a 
geometric design into reality... marking up and beginning to lay mortar 
coloured with red, yellow and black oxides, plus white cement. It is 
experimental... In building and making new projects reality, there are always 
so many options to think and talk about but gradually all comes down to 
simplicity and practicality and that which is right, feels right, has integrity and 
IS aesthetically pleasmg... 

14th June 1993 

...At last, 1 have moved into the room I always envisioned as my office. It is 
the last little room of the original kitchen block at the rear where it is more quiet 
and isolated. It has a fireplace and a big window which gives me ample light 
and being north facing gives me winter sunshine and summer shade. I think I 
shall be happy there and now that 1 am more or less established do not intend 
to move. We have embarked on the last major job - to build a wall along the 
front of the property... We shall commence bricklaying tomorrow. At last 1 can 
say with some surety another month or two and we shall be finished. 

26th August 1993 

...built a marvellous wall in 'klinker" brick and set 
the sliding gate we had taken from the rear Then 
we tidied up - numerous small jobs - about the 
amphitheatre and its decoration; woodwork within 
the house to maximise convenience - some 
shelving in my office... and so it carried on... 
seemingly endlessly... and almost finally to make 
and hammer home the finials on the apex of all the 
three gables In early August, on or about the 7th, 
and almost exactly two years after the builders 
began, we called it a day with the promise that 
Charles and crew come back next year to build a 
small store-room and pave the entrance from the 
road to the gate and the interleading paths around 
the garden... So 1 say 1 have been a long way out 
and am at last returning... 1 have a wonderful 
gallery in a marvellous old house. . . D 


gallery delta 

To those who helped — thank you 

The restoration project at 1 10 Livingstone Avenue, during the period June 1991 to August 1993, was 
made possible by people whose empathy and generosity was such that they voluntarily contributed in 
services, money or in kind. 

On behalf of Gallery Delta, 1 wish to record, acknowledge and thank publicly all of the followmg: 

Colette Wiles 

Paul Paul 

Mick Pearce 

Peter Jackson 

Tony Machado 

Jenny Farquharson 

David Peech 

Richard Jack 

Hamish Jardine 

Neale Morgan 

Arthur Azevedo 

Margie Robertson 

Nick Murgatroyd 

Ros Byrne 

James Logan 

Birgitta Berggren (Sweden) 

Tom Blenkinsop 

Murray McCartney 

Mary Davies 

Kay Graham 

Dora Cavill 

The late George Seirlis 

Brenda Fitzgerald 

Alan Radford 

Joan Stuart 

Leora Fintz 

Volker Wild (Germany) 

Margaret & Tony Weare (England) 

Sue McCormick 

Joerg Sorgenicht (Papua New Guinea) 

Simon Back 

Rosemary Trewartha 

Fried Lutz 

Robert Loder (England) 

Dorothea & Charles Johnson (England) 

Daryl Nero 

Ian White 

Michael Curling 

James Murray 

James Hazlett (England) 

Clive Jordan (England) 

Juliet Copperi 

Jack Bennett 

Christian & Eva Schlaga (USA) 

Anna Fleming 

Helen Lieros 

Philippe & Therese Grosclaude (Switzerland) 

Caroline Thomycroft 


the Development Co-operation Office of the Swedish Embassy (SIDA — Mr Bengt Troedsson) 
for the grant in aid for the amphitheatre and Michiel Dolk for its design 


Charles Nyamutemba (Foreman) 
Samson Antonio 
Francis Jeta 
Mario Katamigo 

all members of the building team whose workmanship in wresting back a dilapidated and 
derelict building to that which it is today was beyond imagination. 

To all, heartfelt appreciation and thanks 
Derek Huggins 


Conservation of our old buildings 

entails much more than 

just physical renovation 

as Peter Jacl<son emphasises 

Pleasure & Privilege 

7*rof.„jti Qiiitim, t. A" Ififfj /i«,t 

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Plan 314 dated 6.01 

for additions 

to the original house 

at 110 Livingstone Avenue 

It was late in 1986 when I was first shown 110 Livingstone Avenue The 
property was in a very run-down and neglected state with two school 
teachers living in it in virtual squatter conditions The house was extremely 
shabby, hidden in a wildly overgrown and tangled garden, the front 
verandah partK missing and the rest filled in The rear area was derelict and 
uninhabitable, but 1 was excited to have found such a relatively intact 
example of one of Harare's earliest brick buildings 

Despite the poverty of its appearance, the original architectural character of 
the house remained intact The 'railway carriage" plan of the 1894 part of 
the structure was an excellent example of fnigal architecture from the 
earliest years of colonial settlement in Zimbabwe It was not difficult to 
imagine this tall, narrow, initially thatched building standing almost alone 
in the African bush, lines of sapling Jacarandas bemg the only indication of 
Livingstone Avenue, the road itself barely a track, criss-crossed with 
lootpaths and cycle tracks Tliere would have been a few other houses going 
up around, in the newly pegged suburb of Greenwood Park, but not all of 
them being built in brick; many would have been pole and dagga rondavels 
I saw it as a fine and beautifully simple early structure, typified by narrow 
rooms, the steeply pitched roof without eaves, and the small window 
openings, and I longed to be able to restore it! 

Why do some of us care so much about the past? Why is it so important to 
preserve some of our old buildings rather than more optimally redevelop 
the land on which they stand? The brilliant environmental engineer 
Buckminster Fuller wrote: "Hope in the future is rooted in the memory of 
the past, for without memory there is no history and no knowledge. No 
projection of the future can be formed without reference to the past. Past, 
present and future, memory and prophecy, are woven together into one 
continuous whole. In a clear understanding of the past lies the hope of our 

It IS certainly my own belief that the purpose of conservation is not merely 
to preserve our towns as museums, but is rather to enhance and develop their 
character and identity through considered and meaningful change The 
historic elements of our towns and cities form an important part of our 
national collective memory. They refiect the recent history of the region, 
the period of colonial expansion and domination, the era that created much 
of the shape and texture which our urban settlements possess today. 

In the mid-seventies, under the local Town Planning Scheme, 110 
Livingstone Avenue was zoned for use as residential tlats and its 
redevelopment value was thus enhanced considerably in excess of its value 
while supporting only a single dwelling An alternative commercial use 
therefore seemed a way to be able to support the costs of renovation and 
restoration, but in recent years the Department of Works has been actively 
resisting commercial pres.sures encroaching into the residential Avenues. 

The need to find new premises for Gallery Delta seemed an ideal 
opportunity for creative conservation, to try to combine Robert Paufs 
ancient with the needs of a dynamic and experimental art gallery On 
behalf of Gallery Delta, Architect Mick Pearce made application in April 


Top: Front elevation of 

the reconstructed house. 

Right: Back elevation. 

Below: West elevation showing 

the new theatre area. 

Bottom: East elevation 

showing Robert Paul's 

old studio area 

of the verandah. 

1991 to the City Council for a Change of Use to gallery purposes This was 
entirely outside the scope of our rigid Town Planning Scheme, but in the 
context of recently proposed Historic Buildings Regulations, as well as the 
undisputed historical significance of the building, the Department of Works 
responded positively and agreed to publicly advertise the proposed change 
tlirough the Special Consent process. 

While waiting for Municipal approval, Derek Huggins was extremely 
anxious to begin renovations. The former gallery had been forced to vacate 
Strachan's Building in March, and was without any other premises 
However, without formal planning and building approval, any work carried 
out could be at risk. One day, Derek rang to tell me that he couldn't wait 
any longer, and that he had already started to do the minimum necessary to 
be able to re-open as soon as possible. With only limited funds available, 
he planned to carry out essential repairs, minor alterations and basic 
redecoration So please would I come and have a look and reassure him that 
the work was appropriate and satisfactory. I didn't need asking twice! 

Our first task together was to agree the positions and shapes of the new 
openings to create a dynamic axis to link the variety of spaces available 
within the house Derek agreed to re-locate doors and windows in order to 
restore the front elevation to its early appearance. In 1901 , the thatched roof 
had been replaced with corrugated iron, which linked the original rooms 
with the new rooms built on the eastern side of the house The timber 
verandah also added was typical of the upgrading of buildmgs that took 
place about the turn of the century, as the town began to discard its early 
pole and dagga unage. We were delighted to accept an otTer to replicate the 
original verandah, one timber post with its carved tracery having survived. 

Derek was rightly concerned however, that there would be insufficient light 
for the display of paintings, particularly if we changed the positions of the 
old French windows and restored the verandah along the front I believed 
that, if the lean-to kitchen along the back were to be opened up, and the rear 
verandah similarly restored, this would provide an extra source of light to 
counter the shading of the already small window openings along the front. 
By now the building had been surveyed, and a set of reconstruction 
drawings prepared. It was clear that we were doing far more than just 
redecorating, particularly as Friends of Delta were so generous with 
donations of cash and materials, including the recreated Oregon pine 
verandah posts, bricks and Victorian profiled guttering Sculptor Arthur 
Azevedo's distinctive security grilles gave the building a necessary and 
magical continuity with the original Gallery Delta 

The reconstruction work was carried out, under the supervision of Derek 
Huggins, by a small building team led by Charles Nyamutemba The Chief 
Building Inspector and his officers were kept fully informed of what we 
were doing No objections were received to the planning application for 
Special Consent, and a Permit for Public Building (Gallery) Use was 
eventually granted on 3rd December 1991, the very day that Gallery Delta 
re-opened with a special commemorative exhibition of the works of Robert 
Paul. There is a condition in the Planning Permit requiring regular public 
access to the house, to which the new use ideally lends itself 

The response of the arts community to the new venue was 
tremendous and further donations meant that renovation 
work could now continue on the derelict back portion of 
the property. Funds were provided for the construction 
of a 100-person amphitheatre focused on a side verandali 
of the house, which anyway required complete 
reconstruction. This area naturally lent itself to 
development as a small stage, with the former window 
openmgs being extended to contain three tall Oregon 
pme framed glazed doors which ambiguously serve 
either as windows to the gallery within, and as an abstract 
backdrop to the stage. Within the amphitheatre was the 
former well which Derek was havmg dug out to find 
water, and for which we were able to locate a 50-year old 
hand pump. It was a very exciting day indeed when the 
matchboard partition, which had separated the front and 
back halves of the house for many years, was able to be 
stripped away. The whole house was immediately 
transformed, all of it at last becoming available for a 
good vanety of walk-through spaces 

The renovations were finally completed in 1992, but 
there was still a boundary wall to construct and the 
landscaping of the garden to be completed, which work 
continued well into 1993 The last exercise will be to 
provide a removable roof over the amphitheatre seating, 
which must not detract from the character of the house, 
but which will enable the stage facility to be used at any 
time of the year 

What made it such a special experience for myself, was 
to watch the building transform under the careful and 
patient hands of Derek, Charles and the other builders; 
seeing it ever moving closer to the image that I had 
formed the very first time I saw the house. It felt a 


privilege to assist them realize that traiisfomiation, in what 
I considered to be a very important early building, if not 
the oldest extant house in the city It has certainly given me 
as much pleasure as any building project on which I have 
ever been involved, and was profoundly therapeutic! 

This project has not only given Gallery Delta a much 
needed home and future security, but has saved for Harare, 
an excellent example of its earliest urban architecture, and 
in such a way as to reasonably guarantee its survival well 
into the 21st century It is not a museum, it has had to 

change to adapt to its new function, while at the same time 
re-establishing its architectural integrity In celebrating its 
special association with Robert Paul, the house looks back, 
as well as forward to the tuture Very often one can find 
young artists painting in the garden, on the verandah or in 
the theatre. Far Iroin becoming just a showcase, I 10 
Livingstone Avenue has become a vibrant focus for artistic 
gro\^1h, a place of questioning, of testing aspirations; of 
making visions of the present and the past, for the future. 

I think Robert Paul would like that D 

Reviews of recent work and 
forthcoming exhibitions and events 

Women Visual Artists 
Exhibition, National 
Gaiiery, August 1994 

Sixty one paintings, graphics, 
ceramics and textiles were selected 
by three prominent women artists 
for this exiiibition Some works 
were distinctly female in context, 
women working, weaving, with 
children, a few had a political 
statement to make such as / am not 
the one by Joan Dunstan; others 
dealt with the wider human 
expenence The 18-25 years 
painting award went to Portia 
Stocker for Pride 

Portia Stocker, Pride 

Stocker applies her oil paint thickly 
in clearly delineated areas The two 
boys, smart in their striped shirts, 
stare balefully at the viewer The 
larger than life size heads demand 
our attention while the hunched 
little shoulders, inertly hanging amis 
and incomplete bodies convey an 
impression of weakness. 

The 18-25 sculpture award went to 
Semina Mpofu for Female Harp 
This IS an evocative work with its 
poised stone head piece and single 
metal string stretching over the 
delicate broken hollow bowl of the 
body, culminating in the roughened 
metal mbira The supine position 
emphasises both sexuality and 

Women artists inevitably express 
their femaleness and, while 
categonsing can be interesting for 
sociological or political inference, in 
the end what matters is that the 
individuals regardless of sex 
communicate their experience 

Is this 'affinnative action' 
exhibition necessary? While white 
Zimbabwean women artists have 
always exhibited alongside their 
male counterparts, traditionally 
black women were limited to crafts 

Semina Mpofu, Female Harp 

and decoration and it is only 
recently that they have been able to 
express themselves through paint 
and sculpture. Judging by this 
show, women artists don't need 
special treatment. Their work can 
certainly be exhibited on equal 
terms with male artists. 

Pity that the book publishing house 
which sponsors the exhibition does 
not see fit to publish a decent 

Harare Polytechnic Fine 
Art Students Past and 
Present, National Gallery, 
August 1994 

This exhibition represented work 
from the first intake of fine art 
students ( 1 99 1 ) to the present time 
Notable was work by Tendai (iumbo 
now in her final year Her printed, 
tie-dyed, batiked, cut and resewn 
textiles and mixed media ceramics 


show an experimental approach to 
materials and her graphics and 
paintings, much energy and self 
expression The range of mnovative 
ceramics made a welcome change 
from the technically perfect bowls 
or traditional style pots commonly 

Works by Prominent 
Contemporary Artists in 
Zimbabwe, Gaiiery Deita, 
Juiy 1994 

Tapfuma Gutsa exhibited San King 
(see contents page) created from 
mixed metals Also on this 
exhibition was Richard Jack's work 
Sharing, a successful combination 
of three simple elements: an 
anchoring block of polished wood, 
an energetic zigzag of rough 
textured steel which engages the eye 
in vertical, horizontal and diagonal 
movement, and a smoothly carved 
stone fruit/seed pod mjikmg its 

Young Artists of Promise, 
Gaiiery Deita, August 1994 

This exhibition showed a range of 
work in strongly individualistic 
modes of expression by twelve 
young artists Cnspen Matekenya 
brings movement, humour and 
energy to wood in his treatment of 
always very human and personal 
subjects such as Bathing the Child 
or The Musician, The Dancers. 

Helen Lleros, Trit>al Land 

Twelve of Zimbabwe's well-known 
artists exhibited including Helen 
Lieros who is exploring the 
complexities of her dual 
inheritance, the Greek and the 
Zimbabwean In Tribal Land she 
incorporates fragments of 
newspapers sent from Athens for her 
late father, intermeshing them with 
her vigorous expression of African 
colour and myth. 

Crispen Matekenya, The 
Musician, The Dancers 

Forthcoming exhibitions 
and events (provisional) 

The Heritage Exhibition opens at 
the National Gallery in November 
With their new policy of including 
both foreign and local selectors, the 
National Gallery is hoping to rescue 
the standard of the exhibition which 
had led to so much public cnticisim 
in the last few years According to 
comments at the Forum meeting, the 
selection has been rigorous this year 
and the selectors have agreed to a 
'walkabout' when they will defend 
their choices in discussion with 
artists and the public. 

The Goethe Institute has 

commissioned Adda Geiling, Luis 
Meque and Richard Jack to do three 
large canvases for their new offices 
at 162 Harare Street. The theme of 
the works is 'the city'. 

ZIm Sculpture (Pachlpamwe) 
Workshop is being held at 
Tapfuma Gutsa's place at Shurugwe 
in September/October. Artists from 
Zimbabwe and abroad will include 
Vote Thebe and Nicholas 
Mukomberanvva There will be an 
Open Day For details contact 
Taylor Nkomo at the National 

Pero Rajkovic will be exhibiting 
at Gallery Delta in October 
Rajkovic, a Yugoslavian painter 
visiting Zimbabwe from war 
devastated Belgrade, says he seeks 
to express in his art something 
beyond the horrific present, to oft'er 

Sylvia Bews-Wrlght, a Canadian 
painter, will be showing work at 
Gallery Delta in November. The 
exhibition "Partitions" will be 
mainly acrylics with strong political 

Berry Sickle and possibly Fatima 
Fernandez will exhibit at Gallerv 
Delta in November Recently 
returned from the Biennale in Cuba 
and from a period of painting in 
Mozambique, Beny should have 
some interesting work to show 

Richard Jack, Sharing 

Betrayal by Harold Pinter wil 
performed at Gallery Delta in 
October, produced by Graham 



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■«» 1M 


-» The art magazine from Gallery Delta 

No 2 

Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Gallery magazine: 



PARTNERSHIP kurebgaseka 









Delta Corporation Limited 



December 1994 

2 Artnotes 

3 ZimSculpture Pachipamwe Workshop, Shurugwe, 
September/October 1994 

by Derek Huggins 

7 Questions of inheritance 

— comments and criticism from viewers at the National 
Gallery Heritage Exhibition 1994 

13 Beyond the frame? 

— an interview with installation artist Michiel Dolk 

18 Sketches from the fringe 

— Stephen Williams writes from Bulawayo 

20 Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Cover: Michiel Dolk, Cabo Delgado (detail), 1994, marble 

Collection: Murray McCartney. Photo: Danielle Deudney 
Left: Harry Mutasa, Elephant in Quicksand, 1994, 30cm, metal 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design Team: Barbara 
Murray & Myrtle Mallis. DTP: Myrtle Mallis. Origination & printing: A.W. 
Bardwell & Co. Colour: Colourscan (Pvt) Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be repro- 
duced in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, P.O. Box UA 373, 

Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (14)792135. 


"/ am really glad to hear that 
something is going ahead in 
Zimbabwe on the art scene. What 
has worried me terribly is the lack 
ofcnticaiity and engagement with 
issues — continuous praise has 
done no one any good at all and 
now that SA is back in the world 
the competition for 'Africanness' is 
going to he tough. " 

Marion Arnold writing from Cape Town 
highlights our need for criticism, interpre- 
tation and discussion which are essential to 
the growth of challenging art. That 
continuous praise is good for no one is 
evident in the proliferation of mediocre and 
derivative work. Some incisive criticism is 

Criticism can be positive and constructive, 
a contnbution to development and change, 
a good teacher. Artists produce their work 
to be seen, to communicate. They want 
and need response. If the response is not 
all positive it may help them to look and 
think again. Comment can open viewers 
and artists to new possibilities, alternative 

Without a local art school to create an 
atmosphere of rational discussion and 
examination of art, criticism has come to 
be seen in Zimbabwe as personal and 
negative. Another correspondent says: 

"Writing about contemporary 
art in this small community is 
a can of worms. " 

Well let's open the can so the worms can 
eat away some of the dead wood in our art 
to make way for new growth. To extend 
the metaphor, most plants benefit from a 
little judicious pruning. 

Equally worth considering in Marion's 
letter is the suggestion that nothing has 
been happening on the art scene in 
Zimbabwe. This is far from true as the 
articles in this issue indicate, but we need 
to make ourselves seen and heard both 
inside and outside the country. Recent 
visitors have been impressed with some of 
the work they've seen and artists are being 
invited to exhibit overseas. 

In November, Tapfuma Gutsa, Luis Meque 
and Keston Beaton travelled to Germany as 
guests of the Gallerie Munsterland in 
Emsdetten who will host an exhibition 

entitled 'Genesis' next year. The curators 
came to Zimbabwe on the Shona sculpture 
trail and were depressed with what they 
found. However at Gallery Delta they were 
shown what Zimbabwean artists are capable 
of creating. Gallene Munsterland aim to 
facilitate interaction and to this end three 
German artists will come to Zimbabwe 
eariy in 1995. All six artists will then work 
towards the exhibition in September 1995. 
The necessity to explain their work and 
articulate their concerns to the more critical 
German audience will be beneficial for 
Zimbabwe's three representatives and 
hopefully have spin-offs for the local scene. 

Seven local artists, Gerry Dixon, Cnspen 
Maiakenya, Luis Meque, Stephen Williams, 
Richard Jack, Anderson Mukomberanwa 
and Bernard Takawira, will have work in an 
exhibition of art from southern Africa 
entitled 'SANAAAfrica'. This exhibition, 
organised by the Norwegian Museum of 
Contemporary Art, will tour Norway from 
February 1995 for 12 months. 

Sue McCormick recently brought Zimba- 
bwean art to international notice when she 
won 2nd prize in the Gualdo Tadino 
(Perugia) 34th International Exhibition of 
Ceramic Art for her wall piece entitled 
'Solidarity'. Constructed of clay tiles of 
varied size and prominence, the piece 
depicts three female figures and a pot, with 
beads and copper wire as added elements. 
Some parts of the surface are burnished 
while the background is subtly coloured 
using brushwork with slips and oxides. The 
prestigious and lucrative first prize of 
Z$25,O0O draws work from many countries 
which this year included Norway, Russia, 
Lithuania, Switzerland, Greece, Japan and 
Italy among others. Congratulations, Sue! 

But while our artists may get recognition 
abroad, the local scene is more problematic. 
Culture is not a profit making enterprise. It 
needs support and sponsorship. Some local 
companies continue to play an important 
role through their generous funding of art. 
In October two major companies in Harare 
requested paintings and sculpture to show at 
the opening of their new office buildings. 
Events such as these bring art to the 
attention of many who do not visit galleries 
and offer them something new and stimulat- 
ing. Sadly some companies as yet do not 
support local culture as was evidenced in a 
recent visit to the headquarters of one of the 
biggest conglomerates. Enshrined in a 
beautiful frame behind the reception desk 

was a piece of commercially printed fabric 
matching the fabric covering their chairs 
and sofas! This lack of interest or pride in 
Zimbabwean culture projects a negative 
impression to the many visitors who pass 
through their offices. As one person at the 
Heritage Exhibition commented: 

"When you talk about what could 
have been done, you have to ask 
yourself if you have contributed as 
much as you can. " 

However, thanks to support from many 
quarters, things are buzzing. New direc- 
tions were in evidence at the Zimsculpture 
Pachipamwe Workshop (see page 3) and if 
not a show of excellent work, the Heritage 
Exhibition (see page 7), does demonstrate 
the range of potential in Zimbabwe. The 
majority of exhibiting artists are untrained, 
and much talent is not achieving what it 
could. We need that art school! Both the 
President and the Director of the National 
Gallery mentioned it in passing in their 
speeches at the Heritage opening. Too 
much has been said and too little done but 
hopefully, with a new Director, the project 
can be made reality. 

While we wait for the Zimbabwe School of 
Art, the Harare Polytechnic is looking for 
full or part time lecturers in Fine Art to join 
their effort to develop art in Zimbabwe. If 
you are interested please write enclosing a 
CV to the Principal, Attention: Head of 
Department, Printing and Graphic Arts, 
Harare Polytechnic, Box CY 407, Cause- 
way, Harare. 

Michiel Dolk on page 13 shares thought- 
provoking perspectives on the conventions 
of painting and sculpture, challenging artists 
to consider contemporary art concerns. 
More deliberate questioning and examina- 
tion of ideas is necessary if Zimbabwe's art 
is to establish a living rather than a petrified 
tradition. Too much emphasis is put on 
preserving culture, maintaining traditions, 
making more art for the Heritage cupboard, 
rather than on exploring alternative 
possibilities and investigating new concepts, 
"making decisive breaks into the new". 

The Editor 



September/October 1994 
By Derek Muggins 

"Shona sculpture... it is a dying movement. I 
think that with John (Takawira) and 
Ndandarika and other people, the movement 
went." So asserts the black skinned, lank 
haired Tapfuma Gutsa. sitting bare chested on 
the terrace of the Shurugwe Motel. 

We have driven the two hundred plus miles 
from Harare via Gweru to Shurugwe. on wide 
tar roads, under a mildly grey sky which hints 
at rain though it seems too early to hope for an 
end the dry season. Traversing the undulating 
scrub bush lands south of Chivu, there are 
vultures, some thirty or forty, gathered on the 
lip of a donga. The vultures rise lazily and 
glide away to circle and wait. There is a 
carcase, a full grown warthog; all that remains 
is the head and hooves. The flies are thick and 
noisy and the maggots stirring. Going on, 
tribes of vervet monkeys cross the road and 
birds of prey wheel above. 

Heralded by a conical hill, the name of which 
nobody seems to know, with msasa and pine 
trees covering its slopes, the small town of 
Shurugwe comes into sight. More old than 
new, more closed and empty than open and 
occupied, Shurugwe displays its deserted, 
verandah-ed streets. 

The now-named Shurugwe Motel, situated in 
the lea of the hill with no name, was if I am not 
mistaken, a tea garden in the early 60s where 
Trevor Southey, a young painter, lived. Two of 
his works are in the Permanent Collection of 
the National Gallery. He became a mormon, 
perhaps understandably, and went to Utah. 
Selukwe, its anglicised colonial name, lost a 
painter and its only call, so far, to the art 
history of the country. 

Arriving at the motel we espy the form of 
Gerry Dixon, dressed in track trousers, 
colourful caftan and imitation guerrilla bush 
hat, and we know we have homed in on the 
workshop. We have a lemon drink and slake 
our thirst while Gerry talks. "Amazing 
workshop. Worked one week wood, one week 
stone, one week painting. Amazing. Gentle. 
Quiet. No hype. No talk. Just work. Got into 
the stone. So easy to work. Much easier than 
wood. Absolute despair yesterday. Today at 
peace. Have got enough stimulation out of it to 
last me a year. Amazing." 

In the dark bar, the ZBC is on the air, pumping 
out pop music. We move off to see Gerry's 



work patch in the middle of a disused, mini- 
ature golf course amongst msasa trees. He has 
chosen Hole number three as his green. Here 
we look at his found objects in wood, Buffalo 
Horns and Tuning Fork, the latter too heavy by 
far for one to lift. "Tapfuma's place is up the 
hill through that hole in the fence. Some of the 
others are working on the terraces, others, the 
painters and the welders, on a farm ten miles 

We climb the hill. A Dixon stone sculpture 
along the path is reminiscent of a Grecian 
warrior's face and helmet with trimmed plume. 
There is a vertical snake on the neck. It is an 
impressive piece. 

Govane Ferreira, the Mozambican wood carver 
from Maputo who exhibited at the National 
Gallery a few years ago, is working the stone 
alongside Rashid Jogee. Rashid, pale under his 
colouful woollen hat, is chipping gently, 
patiently, resolutely at a big rock with purple 
intrusions that is lumpy and undramatic in 
form. Uncovering that which is hidden, and 
almost as though he has no wish to discover or 
look or take out that which is within, so gently 
does he chip. It is as though he is fondling it. 
He is happy to see us. "I hadn't heard. 
Thought the workshop was off. Had a brilliant 
scene in Bulawayo just before I came: Brenda 
Fassi in Mpopoma. For me it is a new experi- 
ence because it is the first workshop I have 
only worked the stone. There is real stability in 
It, OK. Painting is so wild... there are so many 
ups and downs, you see. It's like a wild 
woman. This has been good for me, the 
stability. It is patient and steady. I'm develop- 
ing the stone from its original form. I feel in 
touch with this stone... just developing it... for 
ten days... it starts to come. The work becomes 
light and easy, OK, and then you sing and talk 
together... and you become in touch with the 
stone. I've just been preparing it before I really 
begin to work on it and then get involved... go 
up gently and come down out of it slowly." 
Such is Rashid's involvement with his rock, 
fond and meek. 

As we go on up the hill I remember a stanza 

from Omar Khayyam: 

For I remember slopping by ihe way 

To watch a potter thumping his wet clay: 

And with its all-obliterated tongue 

It munnur 'd — Gently, Brother gently, pray! 

Tapfuma Gutsa Looking around the site where the stone is 

ZimSculpture Pachipamwe Workshop 

Voti Thebe , a^ 


dumped, there is, across the track, a severed 
aeroplane propeller transformed, by 
Tapfuma Gutsa, into a cycladic-like form by 
the addition of a wooden head. Nearby 
Webster Gutsa cuts into a rock to create a 
termite and its labyrinth. 

Terraced hillside and more workers. Dias 
Machate, from Mozambique, wrestles to 
wedge home a block of serpentine in a rough 
hewn tree trunk. 

On a retaining wall, a line of metal and 
mixed media works by Voti Thebe from 
Bulawayo, of which Bondage, or perhaps 
Captive Woman, is the most impressive. 

Further along the terrace, Frances 
Richardson from England is investigating 
how best to pin wood to stone. The piece on 
which she works, a curved stone base on 
which she balances a narrow tree trunk, and 
the manner in which she endeavours to link 
one to the other with the aid of two curved 
metal pins is thoughtful and well designed. 
She proposes to fix a curvilinear scrap metal 
piece to the wood, to create perhaps a figure 
with a lyre? 

It looks too much like a Tapfuma Gutsa for 
my inclination. This is not neutral ground. 
For here, as we climb the hill, terrace by 
terrace, the Tapfuma Gutsa influence is 
strong. Many powerful sculptures stand 
along these terraces and around the swim- 
ming pool, washed and darkened by the 
water from the sprinkler, which are unmis- 
takably Outsa's works dating over the last 


decade. There are some familiar ones: The 
Lovers, The Snake, The Crashed Out 
Helicopter... works that one imagined had 
sold long ago and been housed in Europe 
and America, but which have come to rest 
on these terraces over the last three or four 
years. Unmistakably, this is the site of an art 
establishment. How did this happen? 
Tapfuma homed, I guessed, on the Shurugwe 
chrome mine to investigate the stone sought 
after by the sculptors of this land. And 
finding it, he found a home nearby atop a 
kopje, in sight of the hill with no name, and 
with a bar that is the Shurugwe Motel, at the 

Tapfuma Gutsa 

The stone built cottage on top of the hill is 
full and alive with paintings and sculptures 
— by Stephen Williams, Richard Jack, 
Henry Thompson, Berry Bickle, Rashid 
Jogee and others — the swops and spoils of 
annual workshopping, Pachipamwe style, in 
Zimbabwe. Certainly this is an art site in the 
midst of the Midlands Province. Incongru- 
ous, almost unbelievable, but fact. 

Across the hill, the Zambian, Friday Tembo, 
and the slight, brown skinned Namibian, 
Silverius OUbile, work side by side. Friday 
has completed a piece in wood, rather busy 
in its form, drilled with countless holes. He 
calls it Empty Promise... it depicts a 
politician. The Namibian works on stone 
but there is no impressive form here. 
Perhaps he hasn't worked stone before. 

It seems workshop work is experimental, 
often unresolved, unfinished, even ill 
conceived and incongruous. The accent is 
on the experimental, to work new media, 
and here, on this hill, the tendency to work 
in mixed media is apparent. While this may 
be a means to be different, to be contempo- 
rary, to break away and to find an alterna- 
tive, it is not necessarily an end in itself. 
There is a sculpture on one of the terraces, a 
female torso in wood which appeals but on 
which is fixed a beaten copper head which to 
my eye and sensibility is without harmony 
or feeling between the materials. It becomes 
tawdry and twee... perhaps I am prejudiced 
and reminded too much of the copper 
souvenirs of a decade or two ago. But 
mixed media is a potential direction for 
those who experiment and work long enough 
to mix the materials well; if it is used in the 
search for something different. It seems that 
here, amongst the participants of this 
workshop, the collective in Africa is dissipat- 
ing in the search for the individualistic. 

■■"J-? ■■■ Jx^s^ 

Wood was the traditional medium, and then 
came stone with the so-called Shona 
sculpture, a contemporary movement 
commencing in the late 50s on which the 
emphasis, both at home and abroad, has 
been for 35 years, and which has become 
synonymous with Zimbabwean art. Here 
clearly, the revolution against that continues 
and the break-away mood is to mix media. 
Locally, Naso Callinicos, now in Australia, 
and Richard Jack were the first to experi- 
ment and work in this manner. 

Tapfuma Gutsa told me in 1981: "I am not a 
Shona Sculptor. I don't believe in all that 
hocus pocus. I want to be a sculptor. I want 
to go and study overseas. I want to be 
myself." Aided by a British Council grant, 
he went to London and studied for three 
years at the Guild School where he was 
exposed to multi-media. He has since that 
time been steadily finding himself and 
proving to be the centre of the alternative. 
He is strong, outspoken, audacious, passion- 
ate, highly imaginative and creative. 

Late in the afternoon at the motel, after 
lunch of bream, sadza and relish, sitting 
under a fir tree where the weavers are 
building noisily, Tapfuma joins us and, while 
swigging beer from the bottle, begins to talk 
in his characteristic staccato manner about 
the workshop, the politics: 

"The idea of the workshop was problemati- 
cal from the beginning. I reacted against the 
Pachipamwe workshops of the past where 
the sculptors were underprivileged compared 
to the painters. The painters got materials 
worth hundreds of US dollars and the 
sculptors, about five hundred Zim dollars 
worth of stone. That wasn't good enough. 
But here, by giving enough materials, there 
has been a lot of experimentation and the 

Tapfuma Gutsa 

spirit of the workshop has been good. Calm. 
And if, when it all comes out. it is not good 
enough then we have failed. We've been 
trying to get out of the usual mould, to 
break-away, and it's about honesty in the 
process. It's a sharing of ideas and it makes 
one work hard." 

"And Tapfuma. what about the politics? The 
infamous meeting at the Kentucky Hotel at 
the beginning of the year?" 

He laughs. "Yeah, yeah, all of that." He 
laughs again. "I decided to call a meeting 
and announce my intentions about the 
workshop. I had been funded by the Delfina 
Trust (London). There was opposition to the 
control of the funds. It was like I was trying 
to upstage everybody. There was a fight 
about the money and the control. It ended in 
a fight. Then I didn't know what to do and 
nearly abandoned the idea. I came to you 
and you said, you will lose reputation and 
credibility if you don't do it... if you have 
the money, make a plan, fix a location and 
date and send out invitations and put the 
onus on them to come and take a chance and 
have a good time or bad, or not to come and 
lose out or not. So I did that... the older 
artists promised to give stone but they 
didn't. They didn't come even although they 
were invited out of courtesy... and the 
traditional Pachipamwe donors gave 
nothing... I thmk they had bad vibes." He 
drinks off some beer from the bottle. "But 
there are 25 artists, from here, Namibia, 
Zambia, Mozambique, England, Jamaica 
and one or two from Germany." 

Then the talk moves to the work that is 
being done. "What about the ideas behind 
the work, Tapfuma? Are the artists talking 
about their ideas? Or is it just things put 

Tapfuma Gutsa 


"Intellectually we are not armed. A lot of us 
haven't had art education. Stamps (Minister 
of Health) talks about Health for All by the 
Year 2000. I talk about Art Education for 
All by the Year 2000. The problem is that 
our education system has no art involve- 
ment. Art must be taken to the schools. 
Even if there is one artist in a thousand, that 
one should be given the chance. We are 
children of chance. Our government only 
wants to take people overseas for technical 

"But you've got that education, Tapfuma. 
Did you angle the workshop towards 
discussion and ask what artists are putting 

"You know what it was... everybody thought 
that we were out to make a coup. No, it 
wasn't that. Just wanted to make one leam 
from the others." 

"But you want to get the artists away from 
the Shona sculpture movement?" 

"Yes, because it's a dying movement. I 
think that with John (Takawira) and 
Ndandarika and other people, the movement 
went. The problem is that Shona sculpture is 
related to Eskimo art... it's an anthropologi- 
cal interest. And people can sell. People 
work with a gallery and people are encour- 
aged to make spiritual references. Some- 
body I know, a close friend, making 
sculpture... he has a house with solar power 
and water piped from the well. It's about the 
economic situation. So now the whole 
village is making sculptures. Like 
Tengenenge... buy one there and you can 
find as good on the roadside. It's an 
eyesore. I have run far to come here. If 
people want me to run further I will fight." 
He laughs. 

Among his contributions during the three 
week run of the workshop, aside from the 
organisational aspects, is a worked block of 
rough textured stone turning off its vertical 
axis, on to which is fitted a metal pipe and a 
branch with a trumpet-like loud hailer or 
hearing aid. 

Another of Tapfuma's works in progress is a 
suitcase-sized shape of compacted wire, 
straight from the metal salvage yard, to 
which he has fixed blocks of wood, reminis- 
cent of a transistor radio, the wires of which 
are teased upwards to form an aerial. 
Another is a rectangular metal frame about 
seven foot long on the sides of which are 
welded the rudimentary stretchers used in 
the mines, a six foot long sheet iron plate 
with handles, and on top of the frame 
another stretcher with the wrapped form of a 
corpse. More an installation piece this... of 
the mine cage and mine accident. 

.' '.or- ■-.■"- 



Keston Beaton 

It seems he has gathered his kind to 
himself... "I am a leader through my work 
but I should not be seen as the centre." 

"No, we don't see Tapfuma as the leader of 
a movement," says Frances. "We are not 
his disciples." 

"But inevitably you are seen as a leader, 
Tapfuma," we say. There is no further 

At the end of the day, about five miles along 
the Gweru road, we turn towards Surprise 
Siding. Why Surprise? Nobody seems to 
know the reason. Berry Bickle volunteers 
that there is a 'shebeen' located there... the 
present day surprise at Surprise? We turn 
onto a farm and stop at a dilapidated bam to 
visit the painters and metal workers. 

Here Keston 

Beaton has, from found objects, assembled 
a mosquilo-likc insect with its own inbuilt 
cylinder barrel from a small engine. 
Another of his efforts is a wooden head 
around which he has wrapped a metal mask 
which has more potential. His guitar, in 
simple line and form, works well. He says 
he has been up and down the back streets of 
Shurugwe looking for interesting scrap and 
found objects. 

Two of Berry Bickle's paintings hang on the 

outside wall of the bam; white ground on 
which she experiments with calligraphy and 
which she calls Tears and Tears, meaning 
both to cry and to rent, and on which are 
stuck bone-like scrolls of paper and wood. 
Inside the bam are her treasure trove 
suitcases and trunks. There too, on the wall 
behind, are Shikani's icon-like paintings in 
ochres and reds. Gone are the suffering 
masses, at last. Outside in the yard, a Gutsa 
sculpture, in wood hewn from a tree trunk, 
of a nude male torso which is strong and 
good. No embarrassment here in depicting 
the genitals and slivers of wood have been 
teased to depict pubic hair. 

En route to Harare by night, the questions 
arise, are answered in part, dispelled, rise 
again. Does the workshop work? That it is 
apparently well organised and efficient... 

yes. That it has satisfied 
the artists... yes. For 
most of them it is a 
period of time out of 
their normal working 
environment and 
struggle for existence, 
where for three weeks 
there is a bed, food, 
drink, succour without 
worry and the opportu- 
nity to be with like souls 
in the struggle; to gain 
■^^0- "^ • strength, encouragement 

•>^r^ -.1. and stimulation in the 

Berry Bickle artistic quest. But 
workshops do not suit all. There are those 
solitaries in the quest who must work alone. 
And, while workshops afford benefit, solace, 
impetus, it is a half measure. An art school 
is necessary for Zimbabwe. Surely only the 
best is enough for Africa's artists of the 

What is the effect of this workshop? The 
concentration of a new contemporary 
movement and different directions? or the 
dissipation of a cultural mishmash that will 
be repealed as far afield as Namibia? We 

wrestle to answer this. Intemationalism? 
Continental drift? Can the resulting work be 
seen to be "African' or does this not matter? 
"Yes it is African," Berry Bickle had said. 
"When I was working at the Delfina Studios, 
up against the products of the British art 
schools already well set in their trends, they 
were positively boring. These people are 
much more exciting." 'They are Africans 
and if they are honest their work will 
inevitably be African," Barbara had said. 

To me the message of the workshop seems 
clear; Africa is changing. Zimbabwean 
sculpture and art are undergoing a change. 
This is not a new phenomenon. It has been 
going on largely unnoticed for a decade or 
more, around a few catalysts... of which 
Tapfuma Gutsa is one. 

The message that needs to go out to the art 
community, its observers, interested parties, 
organisations and collectors, here and 
abroad, is that the revolt against the estab- 
lished in Zimbabwean ait — Shona sculp- 
ture — is in progress and that this revolt is 
black African inspired and motivated; that it 
comes from within. 

The workshop itself was African inspired 
and organised and comprised predominantly 
sculptors with a few painters, predominantly 
black with a few whites. 'African' art or Art 
in Africa? That is the question. 

It is time for the West to review its attitudes; 
to move on from the preconceived idea of 
Africa as still the 'dark' continent, wild, 
exotic, primitive; its art still primitive, 
traditional, only ethnic, with luile relevance 
to contemporary modernist developmenls. 
The change is evident in this workshop, it 
will have great difficulty surviving against 
the popular, commercial and fashionable, in 
which so many operatives have their 
interests. But change is here. 

On the way home it rains. The dry season is 

Nicholas Mukomberanwa, 
Landslide, 50cm x 75cm, 

Inheritors may 

simply preserve their legacy, 

throw it in the dustbin, 

or use it in some constructive way 



uestions of inheritance 

The Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition at the National Gallery is the major art event of the year, an indicator of the health 
or otherwise of our art scene. One thing the Heritage Exhibition does do is generate a storm of contention, criticism 
and opinion on the state of art in Zimbabwe. Below is a selection of comments from many different people express- 
ing their individual response to this year's exhibition. 




"Painting should blow people 's minds. You should always be 
excited about it. During the selection I found that I did 
respond to certain pieces like that, and I liad then to sit buck 
and think about it and try and dig deep into my thought and 
the things I've seen and the things I think are important in 
terms of perception and philosophy... and say to the others this 
is why this sculpture or painting is so very important... to open 
new vistas. People who like art will find that a painting is an 
important happening to them... and that is what we were 
looking for here. I want to feel something happening. " 

"People say that there were 3000 pieces but you only chose 
220... it's like they think we were waiting with machetes! It 
doesn 't work like that. We chose work for people to look at. " 

" Eurocentrism is the driving force behind most art production 
in Zimbabwe today. Because of overseas and local dealers 
who export huge numbers of mediocre works and the incresase 
in tourism, many artists produce only to sell and we get 
copying and mass-production. As selectors we spoke of the 
need for artists to investigate mythology, inner feelings, 
spiritual beliefs, social concerns in order to create from within 
themselves rather titan for external, commercial reasons. " 

"Each single piece was examined on its own merit, an 
enormous task, and many pieces were revisited many times. 
We tried as a panel to look for common elements m groupings 
of works after we liad winnowed out many pieces. Having 
discussed and examined these common elements at length, we 

eventually selected what we considered to be the best 
e.xamplars. " 

"As selectors we adopted a 'lean and mean ' approach, 
focussing on the calibre oftlie work and rejecting large 
quantities of batiks and second-rate stone work. To be 
accepted must be seen as an honour to aspire to, something 
that transcends prize money or the assurance of going into 
someone's collection or attracting better prices. " 

"The judging was very fair The local judges are people 
who understand better what is liappening in Zimbabwean 
culture. " 

"I thought the exhibition was much better than previous 
years, much better than last year, even the catalogue. The 
standard of the pieces last year was much lower, painting 
and sculpture. They did a good job of the selection. " 

"I do not doubt for a minute that the selectors did all they 
could with the work submitted to them and as far as I can 
gather the general consensus is that this year 's Annual is the 
best one we have had for some years. Most of the work is up 
to 'standard'. No risks taken; no offence given; nothing that 
will set \our teeth on edge. But why should artists be 
expected to take risks? After all, not only is the Annual the 
most prestigious event of the year but awards and monies 
are involved! So there you are - another year, another show. 
How many of these works will you remember five years from 
now? Time is the ultimate selector " 

• ■■«■ 









"Our culture is full of contradic- 
tions and variety and the art reflects 
this... all the different points of view 
and different ways of looking at 
things. " 

"It's like a church bazaar., some- 
thing for everyone. " 

"Good things are squeezed in 
betiveen a lol of bad stuff. " 

"The exhibition is good because this 
year I can see different works. It 's 
not the same as before. If you go 
round, put your eyes on it. you can 't 
see Mother and child. Mother and 
child. Spirit of this. Spirit of that. 
You see different titles. Last year 
things were too much but this year 
the exhibition is perfect. I think the 
judges did a very good job. " 

"/ ihmk the exhibition this year is 
good. Before when artists worked 
together they were copying... so now 
if you look at the sculptures here 
they are all different. It was nice to 
call the Zimbabwean judges 
because the jurists from outside the 
countiy didn 't know what was going 
on. Tills year they took the outside 
selectors into the shop and they 
could see what was there and then 
they would say we Itave seen what is 
there and there is plenty of such 
type of pieces, so they only put on 
what was different. " 

"/ enjoyed the way the artists 
received their prizes. It was good. 
It was fun. I thought this is a 
special place here not like any- 
where else. And the way Rashid 
hugged the President. 

"I wanted to hug him three times 
but I was worried about the 
securit}' guard. I asked him very 
politely. I said Sir. can I embrace 

"It was good to hear the President 
speak of universal things and no 
racism after all the rubbish of the 
last few weeks. I hope he 's going to 
stick to that and not go back. It 
was nice when he spoke from his 
heart, when he said that he liked art 
because it helped him get away 
from all the political worries, 
before he started on the set speech 
that had been written by someone 
else with all the verbose sentences 
and generalised eulogy. " 

"/ was impressed with Professor 
Kahari's speech. It was not just the 
general platitudes. I respect his 
point of view, its very open. You 
would have expected him to be 
more nationalistic but il was quite 
balanced. " 




"/ was pretty impressed with the sculpture. After the Ziinsculpture workshop... 
I'm so much more aware of sculpture now. Exhibitions produced after work- 
shops are much more e.xciting. Although some pieces are unfinished, the end 
result is much more exciting. " 

"The development in sculpture seems to be heading more and more in the 
direction of craftwork. " 

"Usually on the Heritage, there is a lot of stone sculpture with no particular 
originality. Usually it 's packed with a lot of ugly stone sculpture and this time it 's 
really well done. There was a lot of different media. For once the stone is not 
the prominent material. " 

"The sculpture that was selected was genuine. Influences we accepted but 
anything copied or with similarity to the formulated, stylised work in the shop 
was out. The new generation are trying to break away and it was disappointing 
not to see work by some of the innovative younger artists such as Keston Beaton 
and Crispen Malakenya. 

"Richard Jack (The Table's Tale j uses the pictorial plain and works on the 
contrasts of the materials, the rough and the worked, the stone and the different 
woods. The mirror-like Jinish is effective with its use of reflections. " 

"Landslide by Nicholas Mukoinheranwa convincingly demonstrates that it is not 
decorative incision, but the logic of the cut which matters to stone sculpture. A 
thoughtful distribution of planes re-articulates the mass of stone and reveals a 
truly manellous exposure of a fault line in the 'head' — which both suggests and 
witholds an image of face or bird beak, and which, from one angle completes the 
profile of a 'shoulder' behind. If Mukomberanwa has risen to the challenge of 
simplifying his work, he hasn 't gone far enough. The smooth trench of the neck 

— less a saw cut than a demonstration that the two pieces have not been glued 
together — and the carefully chiselled edges — which mute the shape of the rock 

— are still too 'finished'. Despite and because of his mastery Mukomberanwa 
articulates a dilemma faced by most stone caiiers in Zimbabwe: the desire to 
sell IS amplified by fear, fear of letting a rock be what it is, before it is made to 
represent something else, stylised and finished as art. 

Thomas Mukarombwa 's approach and method could not be more different, 
breathing life into stone by gentle subtraction and sensitive modulation of 
suifaces, allowing bodies to emerge through the skin of stone. Mukarombwa 
remains a compassionate obsener, a dreamer, evoking the pathos of beings 
struggling towards consciousness in a world beyond comprehension or control of 

Arthur Azevedo is the undisputed master of a now well-established genre. In 
both Cow and Crow, he assembles and welds his steel fragments like 
brushstrokes, with the same apparent ease and naturalism of his pen and ink 
drawings. Yet his convincing demonstration of skill leaves little further to the 

As distinct from the recycling of scrap, Adam Madebe (Quartet) stages an 
expensive transformation of virginal stainless steel into an awkward grouping of 
exhaust mufflers, profited no doubt by allusion to church choir and organ pipes. 
However the addition of open-mouthed cartoon faces is too much to bear — and 
despite their vocal effort, completes a monumental ensemble which is both 
pompous and inert. 

The liveliest interest in the sculpture section is the scrap metal work. Hariy 
Mutasa 's Graduate Acrobat and Elephant in Quicksand isee Contents page) with 
its exhaust pipe trunk, are star peiformers. With concise and inventive use of 
steel scrap, Martin Mushonga convincingly dissimulates the character of a 
Chameleon. Tapiwa Chapo's Pub Dancer awkwardly gesticulates like an ostrich 
at a urinal. Its humour shames the elegant crafted piece by Stanford Derere 
whose work has become almost too smooth and collectable. 

Zimbabwe 's ostrich industry may be in crisis but ostrich breeding is doing a little 
too well in the art world! As soon as a rock becomes a bird, a whole fiock of 
look-alikes appears. Much of the welded metal on show threatens to follow stone 
in another version of the fiying-ducks-ahove-the-manlelpiece syndrome, an 
industry with little qualilative claim to art. " 








"Haven 'l I seen that one before ? " 

"Painting in Zimbabwe has a long local Iradilion of 
unchallenging pleasantness. Loose gestural brushinarks, 
muted colour and surface texture veil the inanity of subject 
matter without content. There is a creeping fashionable tide 
for painting figures without faces. After all it is much easier 
to paint a back view tlian it is to tackle the complexities of the 
human face. " 

(Helen Lieros, Alphabet) "This is an e.xample of collage 
really working. The various pieces of paper are jitxtaposed to 
create a sense of depth and distance. There is energy and 
subtlety in the pen strokes which together with a limited 
range of colour, the artist uses to evoke light and shadow and 
to express a strong sense of mood. " 

(Simon Back, Herder II j "The artist evokes man in the 
landscape, as part of the land. He presents the viewer with 
ambiguity as the figure turns into the landscape and land- 
scape into figure, the head becomes the mountain, and the 
cattle walk across his chest and arms, close to his heart. The 
blue ties it all together. His line, his brushstroke is free and 
full of energy. The size of the canvas itself indicates his 


" 'i 





: mw^L^ 




Simon Back, Herder II, 

1994, 180cm X 180cm, 

mixed media 

confidence m his ability to paint, to communicate his vision, 
and his commitment to art. " 

"Simon Back, (Herder \> a mature young artist portrays 
discrete canvas surfaces; as if shadows could leave stains. 
The whitened colour areas of the background make light 
palpable. Like closely observed weather the strong forms 
invite introspection. The horizontal broken rhythm of the band 
flowing from the animal's horns towards the standing figure, 
incorporated by the yellow/blue sunlit infusion of the cloud, 
flourishes and orchestrates this strikingly simplified composi- 
tion. A sense of majestic, other-worldliness is implied in the 
painting 's bold aperture that floats amid white space. Both 
Herder I and II bear marks of earlier paintings: they still 
contain the agitation and gesture within the formal. " 

(Rashid Jogee, Lai Mhe Ree ) "Now there was a cat called Al 
Halaj, a 13th century Sufi poet, and his nickname was The Red 
Falcon. He professed that he had some contact with Allah and 
he started to rave about him in the market place, called 
himself a friend of Allah, and he wrote lots of religious poetry. 
His poetry is very awe inspiring. And then he was in his own 
quarters, praying, and the crowd got angry and decided to 
executed him. And he was praying and praying and the crowd 




came closer and closer and they cut off his head, and 
the head went tumbling down and it was still praying. 
And they made him a martyr Then I came across 
some Indian music, songs about The Red Falcon, and 
I thought. Hey I must do a painting to this music. 
The music is fantastic. 

(Thakor Patel, Dambudzo Marechera) "A new 
departure for Thakor, using words. It's interesting, so 
much art overseas uses text as part of the conception, 
good to see someone here using it. The design is 
good and the idea is interesting. It 's a very crafted 
texture, but then the danger of what happens when 
you put the brush stroke on top and then making the 
next brush stroke fit in. 

(Tackson Muvezwa, Apollo II) "The painting is 
anonymous. The artist's autodidact manner, sponta- 
neous brushstrokes and possible irregularity of 
composition do not distract. Unlike many other 
works on this exhibition where social scenes of 
everyday life prevail, this work poses a myth. On the 
surface it illustrates a little more that what the title 
says. Has Apollo broken his nose? Does he fly in the 
heaven surrounded by birds from Africa? Is this 
Apollo a white man 's god or spirit? This painting 
cannot be explained by its title or interpreted in any 
simple way. It provokes the imagination. Like L'art 
brut, this work portrays an eidetic image. It forces 
the spectator to look, to communicate a feeling and 
discern the meaning of this myth. " 

"Two paintings, for me, each in a very different style 
from the other, have more to offer than most of the 
paintings on the exhibition. They joyously indulge in 
self-sufficient colour and they are about life and its 
pleasures. The bar-room green, jazz pink, and 
electric yellow in Marvellous Mangena 's Inspiration 
from a Bass Player, sing the fifties music of the sax, 
piano and drums, while sharp-edged plastic pink, 
purple and acidic blue thump a mind-numbing 
nineties beat in George Churu 's Party Celebratioa 
Although Mangena's style is heightened realism and 
Churu s is flattened abstraction, both paintings are 
well-crafted. What a relief it is to discover them 
among the blacks, browns, greys, designer smudges, 
wild scumbles, deathly drips and bathos of the more 
fashionable pseudo-angst. 

(George Churu, Party Celebration) "Of the young 
black painters, he is one who has broken away from 
the naturalistic, using semi abstract forms enlivened 
by symbols of contemporary daily life, numbers, 
adverts, modern textiles, to do with urban life now, 
more interesting than the traditional scenes, village 
scenes, market scenes which could almost be any 
century. Perhaps he is pointing in a new direction ? " 

"I've got a soft spot for Thomas Mu 's work. Sit 
Down and Feel works well e.xceplfor the large figure. 
It would be more effective with just the tree and the 
.small figure I think they 're sort of wonderful but 
ihex are not quite successful as painting yet. It 's like 
they're the beginnings of a potentially marvellous 
painting. " 

(ShepluirdMahufe, Music with Drama) "It's 
wonderful. God what potential. He 's really working, 
trying out new stuff. 

"lam very ambivalent about the realistic painting... 
there is nothing of the artist in it. Another realistic 
artist could paint exactly the same painting. I am 
looking for the artist's own unique vision of the scene 
not a reproduction. " 


Tackson Muvezwa, 

ApoWo 11, 

1994, 90cm x 178cm, oil 

George Churu, 

Party Celebration, 

1994, 104cni x 66cm, oil 




"Art is a sensor and a possibility to irritate, to disturb, to make people 
think about the social scene and to understand themselves. Art could 
raise its voice more loudly than we see here. Mugabe said he liked art 
because it helped him to forget the political worries. Is that what art is 
for., to make politicians feel happy? " 

"Much of the art here is on too simple a level. There is no deep thought 
about the subject. For example, the painting of the street kids... that's 
all it is... just some little children... even with smiling faces. There is no 
honest thought about the complexity of their situation or the reality of 
their lives... no emotion is expressed... just a pretty picture. It's too 
simple. " 

"There is so much potential, raw talent and commitment... but it needs 
discipline, questioning, criticism, education. The need for an art school 
with tough teachers is now becoming desperate. These young artists 
must learn to assess their work, to take criticism. Not all the time 
praise and awards for work that is mediocre and could be pushed much 
further " 

"The artists have a role to play. They should support the Zim Heritage. 
Maybe Zim Heritage needs a shake up. We need statements, continuity. 
Not just one piece and it 's finished and start anotlier Artists need to 
think about art. the wider issues, not just the single piece. " 

"This exhibition is to protect and develop Zimbabwe 's art heritage; to 
identify, encourage and develop those artists who can go on and 
develop even further " 

"// is very important that art is exposed, criticised, discussed. It is 
crucial to our growth. " 



■ ^^^ 



"Despite the problems which confront us 
in this third world country (materials, 
presses etc) the artists in the graphics 
section have produced works of interest, 
translating their themes into fascinating, 
images and subjects of importance to 
human beings. Although the work is 
generally small in scale, and regardless of 
whether the sadza spoon or the rolling pin 
was used in the process, the exploration of 
media was exciting. In many instances 
the meanings of symbolism, hidden in 
mythology and culture, come to the 
surface. The artist discovers, like the 
archeologist, a historical inheritance and 
translates it into a modem idiom. " 

"The ceramics section is very sad... where 
are our potters? It's the one medium 
which should be flooded with entries. It is 
the oldest art form in Zimbabwe, so easy 
to get clay and so flexible for expression 
but no one is doing anything exciting. We 
need some big ceramics, some experimen- 
tal work, not just the same old conven- 
tional forms. " 

"The textiles are very disappointing... 
think of the wealth of African textiles but 
this has no colour, form, texture... no 
excitement. " 


■ ^^^ 



The catalogue is not as bad as the last fuo years but there 
IS still too much on the President, the Minister, the Director, 
the sponsors, the staff of the gallery etc. This is not the 
annual report. The exhibition and the catalogue are about 
the art. The art should come first with only a small space 
for the other stuff. And they could do with a good designer 
for the catalogue. " 

"As a collector. I was really disappointed because you had 
to pay the full amount if you wanted to buy a piece on the 
day, you couldn V even put a deposit. You couldn V put a red 
sticker and come back later I wanted to buy a painting and 
I didn 't liave enough. I said I could pay half and they said 
no you must pay all now. 1 was very upset. This is too 
much, it 's a very big discrimination. " 

"The problem is that the artists want us to pay them 
immediately. We pay the artists the first week of the month. 
So we ask you to pay in full amount so that we can pay the 
artists. Some purchasers in the past didn 't come to pay up 
after eight months or a year So how can we pay the 
artists? The day of the opening there is no reserve. After 
the opening you can resen'efor up to 24 hours. " 

"Some work is badly hung. Look at the way this is 
displayed... the light fitting above and the light switch 
cutting the frame and the sculpture right in front of it so you 
can 't see it alone. And so much of the sculpture jammed 
against the wall so you can 't see it from all sides. And the 
sculpture on the floor is placed in such a boring way, plonk, 
plonk. " 

"Is It necessary to have the Heritage every year? Why not 
have it every four years so that there is a more dynamic 
selection. Or if there are only a few good things, have it 
much smaller " 

"The Gallery should go back to calling it the Annual. Get rid 
of all the Inpc and pomp. If should just be the best of the year 
Let history and the future decide what is worth taking note of 
and learning from... though maybe by looking at a lot of this 
work yoimg artists can see wliat not to do, what to fight 
against! " 

"Does the award system encourage young artists to be more 
innovative, or does it reinforce emulation, leading to stale, 
stylised imitation of previous award winners?" 

"The Gallery has got to change its image. Zim Heritage has 
got to encourage and attract artists, to persuade them to enter 
only their best, to keep their best for Zim Heritage. The 
gallery has become a bit tired and there is very little for 
serious artists, if they go there, they don 'tfind anything of 
excitement. For many artists if they liaven V exhibited there it 
doesn V matter to them. In the past the artists liave been 
alienated from the Gallery, things have got to change. When 
you talk about wliat could liave been done, you liave to ask 
yourself if you have contributed as much as you can. 

"The system of invited artists is suspect... if you are an artist... 
wliat criteria is used... if you are not invited... why should you 
enter if your work is of top calibre? Who is not invited? Who 
is the selected artist? Artists don 't understand wliat the 
process is. " 

"The Heritage has a terminal illness brought about by too 
much hype about too little real commitment to art. Prize 
money, when it is spread so thinly over such a large field of 
prizewinners effectively negates its incentive: and highly 
commended certificates are, frankly, patronising. " 

"Winning a prize has no effect on my work but I was very, very 
happy. Next year I'tn going to do better than that. " 

Marvellous Mangena, 
Inspiration from a 
Bass Player, 1994, 
88cm X 50cm, enamel 

Michiel Dolk, 

a Dutch/Australian artist 

recently exhibited 

installation work, 

Marbles — Lost for life, 

at Gallery Delta. 

In this interview with 

Barbara Murray, 

Michiel talks about 

some of the concepts 

that inform his work. 

Michiel Doll<, Lecterns, 1994, wood and marble 

bnd M 

BM: Installation art is not something we see much of in Zimbabwe. 
Can you define installation art? 

BM: Is this the first work that you haven't physically been the 
producer of? 

MD: It is difficult to generalise and impossible to define installation 
in terms of any essential combination of elements because it is an 
open-ended series of relationships and media. So you can"t say 
installation is this or is not this, because it's a series of working 
parameters which often extend between and across different art 
forms. Generally it seeks to break down the idea of art as a discrete 
and self-sufficient object, by making one aware of the space and 
context which objects inhabit. The idea of a perambulatory space is 
often important in installation work; the idea of the mobilisation of 
the viewer through the space, and of how you can intervene in an 
architectural space to create a new awareness, sometimes a self- 
conscious awarenesss, of your own relationship to space. 

BM: How would you specifically relate these concerns to your 
recent exhibition? 

MD: My work for the Delta exhibition was different from my usual 
site-specific approach in which the work only exists for the duration 
of the exhibition and is therefore not saleable or transferable to a 
different space or context. Even though this work wasn't really 
generated within the space, I did conceive the work in terms of how I 
remembered the space and context of Gallery Delta. What is very 
important to me is how the objects relate to the architectural frame. 
What became important with the Lecterns piece was, since the 
gallery is very axial, to use that axis and at the same time empty the 
whole space around it, so that the viewer is encouraged to walk 
round and explore different aspects of the particular sequence. As an 
indivisible sequence of five objects, Lecterns displaces attention 
from the singular object in terms of the multiple. And the multiple 
relates through sequence to seriality or repetition, which are both 
architecural and industrial in character. So the work was conceived 
both in terms of the exhibition space and the whole process of its 
production, that is, the factory system. The formal, technical 
possibilities of what I could do with the marble were very much 
constrained by the nature of the industnal production process. 

BM: Is the industrial process an important part of the form that the 
work takes? 

MD: Absolutely, and that presumes, not just a distancing from 
manual expression in terms of one's relationship to material, that 
trace of the hand, but also a distancing in terms of a division of 
labour between the conception or design and the process of its 
production, which is in turn subject to a further division of labour. 
In this particular work I was involved thoughout the whole process 
of production. After selecting, framing and editing the material, this 
was just a matter of supervision, ensuring quality control. 

MD: No, not at all. In a funny way I have been more directly 
involved in the production of this work than with my other work. 
These are very much "assisted readymades", to use Duchamp's 
terminology, not actual readymades, in that I didn't simply come 
across these objects readymade. In many other works I have simply 
worked with objects purchased off the supermarket shelves. 
In this case 1 had to choose the particular marble, the format, the 
cutting... even though the tombstone format is still known to the 
stonemasons, the books went out of production some time ago... 
uneconomic ...even as art-objects! But both the choice of material 
and factory production method wefc as much determined by the fact 
that I don't have a studio or tools in Maputo. 

BM: Is that separation between the conceiver and the maker 


MD: Well, the question is also, who is the maker? Is the maker the 
designer? or the one who wields the cutting saw? Or, for that 
matter, is it nature? It comes back to this notion of the readymade. 
With these assisted readymades, even though I'm taking a generic 
type like a tombstone, I am involved in the redesign of that type, and 
in the selection of the kind of marble for the making of that object, 
as a kind of designer, which is different from a purely conceptual 
removal from even the design or look of the object. 

BM: Can the artist remove himself from the design of the work? 

MD: Well yes through the readymade, where, for instance, you 
literally purchase the object off the shelf — a chance encounter, or as 
Duchamp would have called it a "rendez-vous" between the artist 
and object, where the object is a readymade configuration, which 
simply in terms of its placement, through the context of its presenta- 
tion, its re - presentation, may acquire the status of art. But I 
suppose the problem today is that the readymade has been swal- 
lowed by the whole post-modem game of consumption, with the 
artist as glorified shopper. 1 hope the marbles have a different 
character even if derived from the readymade in two distinct ways: 
on the one hand, the readymade character of the image as produced 
by nature — a substitute for painting — and, on the other hand, the 
readymade character of the object form derived from the tombstone, 
book and lectern. 

BM: Are you trying to create a particular kind of response? 

MD: I'm not trying to provoke any particular viewer response. 
Viewers determine their own responses to objects, but you can 
manipulate, you can do certain things which differ from other things 




wiihin a given context. Absence is as significant as presence. If the 
gallery's got no paintings on the wall it makes people relate to the 
space in a different way. In this case the objects are neither conven- 
tional paintings nor sculptures, neither books nor tombstones. There 
are all kinds of permutations you can play with to change percep- 
tions of what's going on, to create a kind of uncertainty about what it 
is you're looking at, so that you can see it in a new way. 

BM: Why did you place the one piece, Poslscnpt. on the tloor? 

Michiel Dolk, 


1994, marble 

like computer command lingo, the new bible, "Escape Clear 
Window Save" etc. 

BM: Are you not drawn to eternal truths? 

MD: If there are eternal truths, they are panicular momentary 
revelations, they're sort of evanescent, they're glimpses. I must say 
1 was drawn to marble and its memorial character, its rhetoric of 
permanence. When you look at the grain in the marble it's just like 

MD; Having the piece on the floor emphasises the tombstone 
quality, but what motivated my decision to leave that piece on the 
floor was that the seven books all derive from one slab of marble 
with a particular diagonal grain within it which suggested a kind of 
aerial view... perhaps a stretch of coastline. So the position of the 
viewer in looking down on the work became important. The 
diagonal character of the grain naturally relates to the idea of a 
comer and a diagonal position on the floor In sequence the grain 
also relates to the whole idea of reading from left to right, which 
unlike text is of course reversible. Instead of turning the page, you 
go from one book to the next. So that determines how the viewer is 
led through the work. 

BM: Three of the pieces are frontal, even the Lecterns you don't 
really walk behind. 

MD: Yes, in fact the rear of the Lecterns is only visible if they are 
elevated. The rear of that piece is to me a very compelling vantage 
point because of the grain which, like an enlarged black and white 
photograph, is almost an unacknowledged book cover. 1 thought of 
having the rear on view as you entered the gallery so you had to 
walk round. But I decided in the end to stick with the front of the 
books, so that you're walking in as a reader rather than as someone 
being read to. 

BM: In your introduction you suggest the reader imagines his own 
inscription or text in the books. Why are there no words? 

MD: Inscriptions are overcome by the weight of marble. When fixed 
rather than imagined or spoken, words become heavy as if loaded 
with universal and immutable significance. "In memory of.." - and 
in the titles of course I did fall into "homage to so and so" - it's so 
funereal and I wanted to avoid the obvious tombstone register... or 
for that matter, the biblical. I hate the portentous aura of eternal 
truths. The only register of words I think could work is electronic 

the way a Chinese calligrapher tries to conjure up a cloud. That to 
me is much more interesting than this heavy inscription... "In the 
begirming... the Word..." 

BM: Where does the marble come from? 

MD: Well it's Mozambican marble, mined in Montepuez near 
Pemba in Cabo Delgado. That's why I called one of the pieces 
Cabo Delgado. partly because that grey sequence in the white frame 
very strongly suggested a rocky seascape, and since I'd recently 
visited Cabo Delgado itself the northernmost point of Mozambique 
which has a lighthouse with the sea crashing on the rocks below, it 
seemed to be a suitable title referring both to the location of the 
material and also to the landscape of that area. What I like about the 
quality of the marble is the extent to which it is like nature represent- 
ing itself an illusion of itself You know there's this specious 
argument, yet interesting, that the origin of art, of mimesis, is to be 
found in nature; camouflage for instance, the chameleon, or even 
the lyre-bird imitating the call of other species. It's not a theological 
argument, but then neither is it Darwinist. 

BM: You bring a lot of deliberate thought and allusions to your 
work. What other references are there in these works? Are there any 
related to Afnca in particular? 

MD: Whether intentional or not, references are a matter of interpre- 
tation, potentially endless. These pieces are not African in character 
or at least they do not relate to any particular African tradition of 
design, but they do exploit the ambiguity found in Afncan cultural 
traditions between art, function and ritual, in relation to burial for 
instance, refemng to that indivisibility of the aesthetic, sacred and 
profane. Another point of reference is a classical tradition, not just 
in the choice of material, but formally, in the logic of repetition, 
sequence and order. But the question of the exposure of the grain 
relates more to Japanese aesthetics, for instance, that beauty lies in 


Below: Michiel Dolk, 
Cabo Delgado, 
1994, marble 

the presentation of the truth of the grain, and in that sense, the work 
relates to a kind of Japanese garden architecure, to a contemplative 
ordering of nature. If you look at Chinese or Japanese calligraphic 
painting, the way the image is composed... with an active, interac- 
tion of air, water... rocks wrapped in clouds. You can almost 
imagine that's how the stone came to be formed. There's something 
in this How, and in the sense that the liquid material is, in the 
permanency of the marble, stopped, already frozen as image and 
gesture. Simply revealing the stone becomes an ironic comment, a 
critique of painting. 

BM: What do you mean it's a critique of painting? 

MD: All my installation work is a continual interrogation of the 
problems of making a painting. But it's never a painting. It's about 
the impossibility of painting. I mean, why make a painting after all? 
For me the very idea of now making a gesture, or anything embody- 
ing my own gesture, with paint, on a piece of canvas, is a total 

BM: So you take what you find and use that. 

MD: Well It's like I find gestures elsewhere. For instance, I did a 
whole series of pieces based on fragments of tyres. You know when 
tyres become unthreaded, you see the pieces lying on the road. 
Some of them are incredibly gestural. The force that tears them 
apart is gestural. I collected a whole pile of them when I used to 
travel between Sydney and Canberra and then did this gigantic 

MD: Some of them looked reptilian, but they resolved themselves as 
both landscapes and figures. By shoving them onto the wall you do 
end up with an ironic form of landscape painting, in the same way as 
these marbles are. I wanted to show the marbles in Zimbabwe 
because there's this strong colonial tradition of landscape painting 
here, as well as the local tradition in stone. So it's like I'm doing 
something in stone which is a displacement from the idea of 
sculpture and I'm doing something with the image which is a 
displacement from the idea of landscape painting. I don't want to 
overdo the cntical function of the marbles, but they cross both 
landscape painting and stone sculpture and perhaps question both 
because they're noi paintings and they're not sculpture. 

BM: What other sort of work have you done? 

MD: There are continuous threads through my work, but I'm very 
inconsistent, on principle, because I need to re-invent continually 
what it is that I'm doing. So it's like avoiding the trap of a signature 
style as well. As soon as it becomes too apparent to me that 
something is mine, something belonging to me, then I need to deny 
it and do something which is not me. Art is a matter of being aware 
of possibilities in a given context... what is this space? who is 
looking at it? It's like you're trying to place yourself somewhere in 
a particular location, a particular culture, a particular environment, 
and you try and deal with that, and then what comes out of that 
interaction inevitably has you in it. But that's the last thing I think 
about rather than "oh here, you'll recognise me. I'm still the same" 
which unfortunately I probably am. 

mural where I literally used these tyre fragments as readymades, 
like brushstrokes, a bit like the grain in the marble. These 
brushstrokes weren't made by me, I just discovered and collected 
them and then by suspending or letting them fall in a certain way, 
used their expressiveness as a material surrogate for painting. It's 
incredibly strong, much more forceful than any gesture I could 

BM: Did the tyre works also resolve themselves into landscape 

BM: In the introductory sentence of the catalogue you describe 
yourself as a "lapsed painter". Is this a primary identification? 

MD: It's a sort of ironic self description w hich relates back to the 
fact that, directly or indirectly, a lot of my installation work is still 
derived from the problematics of painting and of the pictorial, and of 
the relationship of the pictorial to the architectural. Painting since 
the mid 1 9th century has been dogged by the logic of the industrial, 
the logic of industrial replication and repetition through primarily the 
advancement of photographic representation, and has foregrounded 

the activity of painting itself, that is, of mark making, as its own 
domain of legitimate expression. But there were still many other 
problems, of the possibilities of art, of the conditions of the pictorial, 
or of the limits of painting and of representation, which can be 
addressed in forms and media other than painting... other than the 
smell of oil on canvas... however intoxicating. 

BM: The word lapsed to me implies a return? 

MD: Yeah well that's left there, sort of dangling. It's true, to some 
extent. To date it's been relatively impossible... well not impossi- 
ble... What has interested me is the problematic of the frame. In 
terms of the logic of what can happen within the frame of painting, 
art seems to have historically exhausted itself as anything other than 
a craft, or therapeutic activity. I will never deny the pleasure of 
painting, nor its difficulty. But the possibility of innovation, or the 
possiblity of generating new ideas or content through what happens 
within the frame, seems exhausted, irrecoverable. Of course, 
whether you're painting or not, art is, in a sense, playing in the ashes 
of history. But then there is that imagined possibility... outside the 
conventional freune of painting or sculpture... imagine taking that 
frame elsewhere. In that sense, when I talk about landscape 
painting, in the tyres for instance, it is about taking that frame with 
you, relocating it within and without you, and rather than making a 
painting, just finding these surrogates for painting, that re- 
problematise the question of what art is. Because you can't ask the 
question "what is art" through making a painting anymore. You 
have to look at the relationship and the historical character of other 
media. You shouldn't take painting as the natural, eternal, immemo- 
rial, universal, frame for the unfolding of something called art. If 
it's a question of image making, why can't art happen on computer 
screens? Why does it have to happen in a medium called painting? 

BM: But can computer screens be beautiful? Can they move the 
viewer in the same way as a painting? 

MD: However much you bang your mouse, computers don't have 
the immediate physical, tactile dimension. As information proces- 
sors or mediators, they don't have that sort of immediacy. There is a 
certain materiality to painting as well, which has its own specificity 
and its own history of emotion and meaning, and I don't want to 
invalidate that. But it's for my love or respect for painting, that I'm 
looking for other boundaries. A lapsed painter does imply a 
potential return. So much of it is premised on a particular view of 
history, of what precisely has exhausted itself, and what has not 
exhausted itself. And you can be locked into a kind of historical 
determinism, the historical notion of the avant-garde and the end of 
painting. That sense of the end of painting has been continually 
posed since the end of the 19th century. But however much we've 
modernised since, that endless demand for and absurd privilege of 
painting continues. 

BM: Probably earUer too. Were there not certain stages of every 
period of art where it seemed Uke everything had been done? 

MD: Sure you get a certain cyclical process of renewal, not just 
cyclical but also of processes, of techniques, ways of imaging, 
envisioning, imagining. For nothing is as irreversible as the effect 
of the industrial and communication revolutions on what we might 
imagine culture to be. I know that since the 60s we've lost that 
heroic tradition of the avant-garde, and that adventurous sense of 
decisive breaks into the new. However much an irritant, the avant- 
garde was also compHcit with the logic of modernisation and 
cultural commodification. But given this loss, where today is there 
space for the critical function of cultural practices? Only theory in 

academia seems to maintain the fiction of critique. It's in this 
context that 1 call myself a lapsed painter, implying the possibility of 
semi-graceful resignation to the way things are. But whenever I 
think myself painting, I always think in terms of a domain which, 
other than the making of a good painting, doesn't pose any funda- 
mental questions beyond that. It means accepting the given frame 
and working within that frame. 

BM; When did you stop painting? 

MD; Painting is something I've always adopted and rejected. But I 
suppose that even while rejecting, my obsession has always been 
painting. It's partly an academic obsession, the history of painting. 
And then the feeling of whether I could do something within that 
history or not. I've never been a painter in the sense of painters are 
painters. So I'm not a bom painter. I wasn't sort of, you know, bom 
with a brush-tail or paint in my veins... or to quote Duchamp " stupid 
as a painter" . I can't even claim a signature for myself within 
painting... which I'm very pleased about. Ad Rheinhardt once said 
that scupture was something you bumped into when standing back 
from a painting. I suppose that in walking back, looking at and 
thinking about painting, I bumped into the object and stumbled into 


Is that part of your need to be inconsistent? 

MD: 1 need to have different reference points within the media I'm 
working in. So I'm not a marble mason, and why should I be only a 
marble mason or only a painter... or a basket weaver or computer 
video artist, or whatever. There's that whole thing about media. You 
can learn certain skills and use them according to the ideas and 
sensations you're able to generate or realise through them. It's 
terrible if the social division of labour programs your life in ad- 
vance... in a linear narrative with a beginning, middle and end... a 
bloody boring life! I know, even for the artist, it is a luxury to refuse 
the role of specialist... a threat to career prospects, security and 
retirement benefits. But for me, commitment to notions of estrange- 
ment and displacement are much more interesting... continually 
displacing yourself, re-inventing yourself, in terms of different 
situations, media and ideas... discovering your limits and whatever 
ruins of identity you call yourself. 


Stephen Williams writes about culture and politics in Bulawayo 


The dominant topographical feature of Bulawayo is flatness, its landscape 
monopolised by a horizon so low and heavens so vast and blue that the city is 
sometimes referred to as Skies. By the end of winter, when not a drop of rain has 
fallen for up to eight months, Matabeleland is parched, small, stunted thorn scrub 
standing black and leafless against a backdrop of dusty earth and still yellow 

The arid natu.e of Bulawayo is particularly striking in comparison to the verdant 
surrounds and tall trees of Harare. These trees in turn mirror the ever-increasing 
canyonisation of downtown Harare which seems to have new buildings being 
erected on every other block. Visitors from the provinces can be under no 
illusion that this is where the country's wealth and power are centred. 

For political and other reasons, particularly since independence, Bulawayo has 
been left relatively undeveloped. The topographical symbolism alluded to above 
extends beyond the relative dearth of new buildings to encompass the stagnation 
of Bulawayo's once vibrant economic infrastructure and the highest unemploy- 
ment figures in the country. TTie drying up of water resources which followed 
the epic 1992 drought threatened to turn Bulawayo into a ghost town. 

As the country's second city, Bulawayo has historically always reacted against 
the hegemony of the capital. The development of Bulawayo as the centre of 
industrial expansion in the 40s and 50s brought about the formation of workers 
unions by men such as Masoja Ndlovu and Benjamin Burombo. The massive 
Railway Strike of 1945 and the General Strike of 1948 gave expression to the 
emergence of radical working class politics and signalled a new challenge to the 
colonial administration in Salisbury. 

Bulawayo's high density western suburbs flow directly on from the city centre 
making the one city concept more of a reality than in Harare where townships 
were conceived by colonial planners more like bantustans and situated far away 
from white residential areas. Long before independence a community services 
network was established by the Bulawayo City Council in the former townships 
which remains the envy of other councils today. A tour of Pelendaba, Mpopoma, 
Makokoba and Mzilikazi confirms the pivotal role that culture commands in the 
eyes of the Council. Institutions such as the Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre and 
Bulawayo Home Industries continue to play an invaluable social and cultural 
role three decades on, and more recent initiatives are also in evidence. Buhlaluse 
is an amalgam of two craft co-operatives formed with assistance from the 
Council. The 'Flame Giris' and 'Marigold' comprise 38 women who produce 
bead work items in traditional Ndebele and modem idioms in a venture which is 
not only culturally regenerative but also provides a living for co-operanls. 

Political struggle between ZAPU and ZANU during the early years of independ- 
ence found cultural expression in 1985 with the controversy which surrounded 
Adam Madebe's welded metal sculpture Looking lo the Future. Earlier that year 
a competition had been organised in Bulawayo to encourage local sculptors to 
produce public art to replace the colonial statues and monuments removed at 
independence but which had never been substituted with anything more in 
keeping with the new nation's ideology. 

Madebe's imposing five metre nude male form won first prize in the competition 
but immediately sparked off a furore with battle lines drawn between traditional- 
ist and modernist camps. Inevitably in those heady days, politics was never far 
from the surface and when the then Minister of Local Government intervened 
and ordered the sculpture removed, opinion quickly shifted with even the 
conservative traditionalists' camp coming to the defence of artistic freedom. 

At one point during the ongoing tussle the sculpture's offending parts were 

vandalised with spray paint 
which when cleaned up were 
conspicuously shiny in relation 
to the rest of the tall rusted 
figure. This development 
afforded an even greater 
sensation in the eyes of the 
crowds who came from afar to 
peer up at the infamous figure. 
Looking to the Future was 
eventually removed under cover 
of darkness by men from the 
Ministry of Public Works and 
confined to the store room of the 
old Bulawayo Art Gallery. 

During those years of 
Gukurahundi, Looking to the 
Future came to symbolise the 
political struggle being waged 
between ZAPU and the ZANU 
dominated government in 
Harare. Never before or since in 
the life of this nation has a work 
of art caused such an uproar or 
been afforded such attention. 
People in Bulawayo began to 
question the essence of their 
culture and to consider issues 
such as the limits of artistic 
expression and freedom. 
Mischievously, at the height of 
the controversy, the late Head of 
the Bulawayo Art Gallery, Ms 
Margery Locke, placed Gillian 
Kaufman's life-sized, nude 
bronze sculpture of the 
Bulawayo bom dancer Gary 
Bums on public view in the 
centre of the gallery. Word soon 
spread that there was another 
male nude just across the road 
from Looking to the Future. 
Attendance figures soared at the 
Bulawayo Art Gallery. 

Happily in the new spirit of unity 
and glasnosl Looking to the 
Future is once again on public 
display. The sculpture is the 
dominant feature in the courtyard 
of the new National Gallery 
Bulawayo, even if his view of 
the future is now somewhat 
symbolically distorted by his 
enforced gaze down the sanitary 
lane which divides the gallery 
from the Reserve Bank. 

If a litile bemused. Madebe is 
largely unaffected by the 
notoriety which accompanied 
the uproar. As a sign of the 
changed times, his status shifted 
from infamous to famous when 
the highest visual art accolade in 
the country, the Presidential 
Award of Honour, was conferred 
on him at the 1994 Zimbabwe 
Heritage Exhibition, for amongst 
other things, 'consistent 
excellence in the art world'. 

For some time now, Madebe has 
been working independently of 
the Mzilikazi Art and Craft 
Centre where Looking to the 
Future was conceived and where 
Madebe worked as a sculpture 
instructor. Madebe has set up a 
studio in a warehouse near the 
Renkini bus terminal where his 
production centres around the 
human (although now mostly 
female) form. His beautifully 
contra postured figures are still 
constructed around a modelled 
clay armature but Madebe has 
moved away from the painstak- 
ing process of welding together 
the small stamped off-cuts that 
charactensed his earlier work in 
favour of larger pieces of lighter 
sheet metal. 

The new National Gallery 
Bulawayo is situated in the 
magnificently renovated 
Edwardian period building 
known as Douslin House. The 
purpose-built structure affords 
far more versatility and dignity 
to the displayed art work than 
was possible in the old gallery 
located in a former municipal 
market building. A major 
problem attached to the new 
gallery is that a lift designed to 
transport people in wheelchairs 
from the ground to upper floor 
was cut at the last minute by the 
head office in Harare. The shaft 
is there but not the lift. The 
upshot is that disabled people 
are only able to visit the 
downstairs gallery, approxi- 
mately one third of the total 
gallery space. In a country 
where there are many disabled 
persons, such a funding cut is a 
genuine disgrace. The present 
Mayor of Bulawayo, the 

outspoken Joshua Malinga, is a 
member of the Board of the 
National Gallery Bulawayo and 
is himself confined to a wheel- 
chair. As such he is unable to 
tour in a dignified, unaided 
manner, an institution for which 
he IS a trustee and which 
represents one of the brightest 
jewels in his city. 

The previous Director of the 
National Gallery, the late 
Professor Cyril Rogers, demon- 
strated a real interest in 
Bulawayo and it was largely 
through his efforts that money 
was channeled into the renova- 
tion of Douslin House. It is 
sadly ironic that the two main 
movers behind the project, he 
and Margery Locke, never lived 
to see It officially opened. 
Marge died just days before the 
official opening in March 1994. 
Bulawayo waits to see what 
policies the new Executive 
Director m Harare, Professor 
George Kahari, will initiate and 
what this will mean for the 
National Gallery Bulawayo. 

It was good to see this year's 
Pachipamwe International 
Artists' Workshop held in 
Shurugwe in September/October 
getting some coverage on ZTV 
news. The clip was, however, 
badly edited and must have 
made little sense to the average 
viewer. The subsequent news 
item about a tame gorilla in a 
shopping mall in the USA 
(courtesy CNN) received a much 
longer and more cohesive time 
slot. So much for promoting 
indigenisation. What sort of 
priorities do ZTV have anyway? 

The Visual Artists' Association 
of Bulawayo (VAAB) continues 
to flourish and has recently 
launched a rejuvenated newslet- 
ter, Ubuciko! Today VAAB 
stands as the only artists' 
association in Zimbabwe and is 
run by artists for artists. 
Membership currently stands at 
150 persons drawn from all parts 
of the country. VAAB may be 
contacted through the National 
Gallery Bulawayo or PO Box 
2101, Bulawayo. 

Adam Madebe 

and friends, 

c. 1994 


Reviews of recent work 


Commissions are never easy and the Goethe 
Institute added the constraints of size, shape 
and inter-relationship of colour when it 
asked three artists to create work for a 
specific site within their new offices. Using 
Gallery Delta as their base, the three artists 
met, discussed, painted, criticised, altered, 
until each individual artist's conception 
worked in relation to the whole. Now the 
three vertical canvases, set high up in the 
Institute's library provide a thought- 
provoking juxtaposition of cultures. 

Adda Gelling, a painter from East Germany 
currently living in Smbabwe, struggling to 
come to terms with the violation she 
experienced on her country's absorption by 
West Germany, has created a painting filled 
with European angst. Buildings and traffic 
swirl in a turmoil of speed and technology. 
Out of this maelstrom a single male figure 
rises through a shroud of red, his injured 
flesh exposed, his intense head shadowed. 
Above him, a dark, foreboding sky of deep 
ultramarine. The imaginary life of man in 
the city is portrayed through broad slashes 
and drips of paint which here convey 
anguish, haste, violence. 

Adda Gelling, Richard Jack, Luis Meque, Harare City Life, 1994, oil on canvas 

Harare City Life, 

The Goethe Institute, 
September 1994 

The central panel by Richard Jack forms a 
complete contrast and reflects the white 
Zimbabwean preoccupation with nature. 
TTirough his harmonious use of the linking 
colours and his careful application of paint, 
the artist depicts his view: the city in Africa 
where the bush and the panacea of nature are 
never far away as opposed to Ceiling's city 
in Europe from which man must struggle to 
escape. A tree spans Jack's divided canvas: 
on the left a jumble of material elements, 
geometric forms in bright colours, human 
heads, even a giraffe (Mukavisi woodlands 
is within the city); on the right, a ploughed 
field, abstracted green crop, a wide bottomed 
peaceful rock in an open stretchof earth 
receding to a naturalistic horizon with blue 
sky and sunlight. The paint here is smooth, 
controlled, calm. The city is seen in its 
material forms, more-or-less harmonised 
with nature, an optimistic viewpoint. 

The third canvas by Luis Meque takes as its 
central motif social interaction - the human 
side of city life. Two large figures, talking 
together, dressed in cheerful if shabby 
clothes, dominate the scene. The buildings 
recede into the distance merely a backdrop 
for the people whose ordinary lives and 
conditions are the important consideration in 
this black African viewpoint. Human 
contact is stronger than the city's alienating 
forces. Drips and broad brush strokes are 
used by this artist to convey the poverty but 
humanness of street life. 

The Goethe Institute, which aims to 
encourage cultural exchange, here presents 
us with three contrasting cultural views in 
these paintings, Harare City Life. As the 
Director of the Institute said in his unveiling 
speech, "Zimbabwe, torn between a U-adition 
which is partly lost and modem western 
influence... has to find its own way." 
Discussion of the differences and points of 
contact between cultures must be radical and 
honest if we are to gain insight and under- 
standing "from which a new cultural 
prospect can emerge". These three canvases 
make an interesting starting point. BM 

Steve Pratt, Sandro's Gallery, 
October 1994 

Steve Pratt is not an artist who sits in his 
studio and thinks about Africa. Pratt is a 
farmer Hving close to the land and passion- 
ate about the bush. His painting is moti- 
vated by his fervour and his imagination. 

Arching is a seductively quiet piece, a male 
torso, which through sensitive carving of the 
bone structure beneath the black serpentine 
skin creates a subtle play of light and 
shadow on the smooth surface. Both works 
reveal Jack's continuing preoccupation with 
youth and beauty in the human body. MM 


His training was in Grahamstown where 
students were taught to learn from nauire, to 
heighten their perceptions and trust their gut 
reactions. These influences show in Pratt's 
mature work despite his reputation as a 
rebel. He works both in acrylics and in oils. 

There was a variety of work on display 
ranging from small but vibrant landscapes to 
large splattered, brooding canvases, notably 
his triptych of Sinamatella which captures 
the grey bush and the slow dry river which 
has carved its path into the sand. 

In strong contrast were figure paintings of 
surrealist quality. For this observer it was 
the small simple landscapes that left a 
lasting impression. I was not sure about the 
'messages' contained in some of the larger 
works, a very difficult thing to do. I wanted 
to remove his unexpected figures, poachers 
in camouflage in one instance, men chop- 
ping down trees in another. They were an 
irritant on an otherwise pristine land. 
Perversely, therein lies the strength of the 

The surreal works were both entertaining 
and baffling. As someone who struggles 
with colour and tonal contrast, I was 
impressed by Pratt's control, variety and 
daring. The only thing I would wish for 
would be greater spontaneity in his applica- 
tion of paint. Loosen up! Wouldn't we all 
like to! PMB 

Richard Jack, Two directions with 
three mediums. Gallery Delta, 
October 1994 

The juxtaposition of stone, steel, wood, wool 
and reeds exposed in 22 sculptures by 
Richard Jack brings to our attention the 
tensions and harmonies inherent in combina- 
tions. Yet the strongest work on this 
exhibition was that in only one material, 
stone, where the artist has used his chisel to 
create contrasts in order to evoke our 
response. The power of the large marble 
Youth lies in the counterposition of the 
slender, sparkling white body against the 
rough, brown, uncarved base from which it 
rises. The shoulders gracefully echo the 
slope and curve of the hip creating move- 
ment and energy which is opposed by the 
solid heavy base. 

Richard Jack, Youth 

Pero Rajkovic, Paintings and oil 
pastels, Gallery Delta, October 

Pero Rajkovic's paintings portray a joyous 
surrender to the powers of nature. His 
vibrant brushstrokes animate the vegetation 
and are related to a dynamic calligraphy, and 
in a way employ distortion in order to 
intensify the viewer's awareness of pictorial 
space. Arcs that seem arbitrary, either 
spaning the foreground or sky, launch a 
spatial thrust which vibrates the curvature of 
the horizon. These works try to obliterate 
the wars, famine, disease, which we have 
inflicted upon ourselves - and pay tribute to 
Mother Earth and her power. HL 

Pero Rajkovic, The Gate 

and events 

Work from the ZimSculpture 
(Pachipamwe) Workshop will be 
exhibited at the Alliance Francaise from 
December 6th to January 6th. A selection of 
the innovative sculptures and paintings, 
already exhibited at the National Gallery, 
Bulawayo. will give Harare viewers a 
chance to see new developments, a break 
away from the tired old and now largely 
commercialised tradition of stone sculpture 
in Zimbabwe. 

International naive paintings will be 
exhibited at Sandro's Gallery from Novem- 
ber 30th to December 30th. Work from 
England, Denmark, Tanzania and Zimbabwe 
will be included. 

The Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition 

continues at the National Gallery until the 
end of January. A walkabout with the some 
of the selectors (Helen Lieros, Tony 
Mhonda, Nicholas Mukomberanwa and 
Sylvia Bews- Wright) will happen sometime 
in January. Go and see it and add to our 
collection of opinions! 

Nicholas Mukomberanwa's work (1960- 
1995) will be exhibited in a one-man 
retrospective at the National Gallery in 
March. As one of the grand old men of the 
stone sculpture tradition in Zimbabwe, 
Mukomberanwa has produced work of a 
consistently high standard. It should be very 
interesting to see a large number of his best 
works together and to consider his progres- 

Student work will be on show at Gallery 
Delta in January. This exhibition shows 
what the forthcoming generation of Zimba- 
bwean artists are up to. 

Spanish work will be featured in an 
exhibition, at Gallery Delta in March, of 
paintings by the Spanish Ambassador to 
Zimbabwe, inspired by the work of the poet 
and playwright, Lorca. The show will be 
accompanied by the production of one of 
Lorca's plays in the amphitheatre. 







Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
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Delta Q>fporalicin Dmited 




March 1995 

2 Artnotes 

3 Beaton, Matekenya, Meque, Sibanda 
— Changing directions by Olive Maggs 

7 The unspoken tyranny: looking South from Norway 

by Murray McCartney 

9 Women and the body politic 

by Pip Curling 

1 3 Art Zimbabwe : Towards an integrative source 
by Doreen Sibanda 

17 Workshops: Thapong by Stephen Williams 
and Pachipamwe by Murray McCartney 

20 Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Cover: Crispen Matekenya, //owe a«^ /?/^<'r, 1994, 

100cm X 95cm. wood. Photo by Stoffer Ceiling 

Left above: Semina Mpofu, Soul Music, 1994, 40cm x 57cm, 
stone and metal 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Muggins. Editor: Barbara Murray, Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination & printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. Colour: 
Colorscan (Pvt) Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessanly those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 
editor Contributions are welcome and may be published at the discretion of 
the editor. 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, V, Gallery Delta, 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue, RO. Box UA 373, Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (14)792135. 


Johannesburg is exploding with art! — 
galleries and public spaces filled with the 
work of creative artists from both within and 
without South Africa; people going to or 
coming from exhibitions, workshops, events, 
conferences, being stimulated by new ideas 
and sights; communities and individuals 
identifying and expressing themselves; 
statements being made and refuted; art and 
artistic concerns being discussed in the 
media on a scale not often experienced in 

For two months. March and April 95, the 
Johannesburg City Council is hosting the 
First Johannesburg Biennale under the 
direction of Chns Till, previous Director of 
our Zimbabwe National Gallery. Chris is 
remembered above all for his public 
relations, diplomacy, energy and drive, 
qualities he will need to manage all the 
activities taking place during the Biennale. 
One columnist of the Weekly Mail and 
Guardian suggested Chris be given a crash 
helmet to protect him from further injury. 
He already has a broken nose, courtesy of 
one committee member! 

The intent of this First Johannesburg 
Biennale is to generate dynamic exchange 
(preferably of an artistic nature!). To this 
end, there will be exhibitions from 66 
countnes, including Zimbabwe. Community 
and individual identities are the central focus 
with the diversity of artworks drawn 
together through two main themes: 'Volatile 
alliances' and 'Decolonising our minds'. 
South Africa is seeking its new post- 
apartheid artistic identity. 

Cautious voices may say it is too soon, but 
why wait? Whatever is seen, shown, said, 
constitutes a beginning. 

Reports say that organisation is chaotic, but 
chaos is fertile ground. Order in disorder? 
Mixture and flux generate individual 

The juxtaposition of various cultures and 
individuals will, it is hoped, act as a catalyst 
for discourse and action. A conference 
entitled Bua! Emergent Voices, being held 
from the 2nd to the 4th of March, will 
discuss topics such as 'Re-defining cultural 
identity in Post-Apartheid South Africa', 
'Traditions and Modernism in Africa' and 
'Re-definition of Afrocentnsm'. The latter 
two topics are particularly applicable to us 
here in Zimbabwe. 

We have had 15 years to consider our 
cultural identities. When a 'new' country 
comes into existence, it carries with it its 

cultural baggage from the past, and, as 
reflected in this magazine, Zimbabwe 
continues to struggle with the contlicts 
between tradition and modernism, with the 
issue of women's marginalisation, with the 
various effects, good and bad, of the West's 
influence on our artists and culture. 

Forging an identity is never completed. As 
Iris Murdoch puts it: 

" has an irritating way of 
bumping and limping on, undoing 
conversions, casting doubt on 
solutions, and generally illustrating 
the impossibility of living happily or 
virtuously ever after.. I fell loo that I 
might take this opportunity to tie up a 
few loose ends, only of course loose 
ends can never he properly tied, one is 
alwaxs producing new ones. Time, 
like the sea, unties all knots. Judg- 
ments on people are never final, they 
emerge from summings up which at 
once suggest the need of a reconsid- 
eration. Human arrangements are 
nothing but loose ends and hazy 
reckoning, whatever art may other- 
wise pretend in order to console us." 

What art can do is capture and express the 
knots, the loose ends, the hazy reckonings, 
the various stages and insights along the 
path of the society and the individual 
towards identity. 

Young Zimbabwean artists are confronting 
traditions and conventions, finding and 
sharing their own interpretations of Zimba- 
bwe's 'human arrangements' (see pages 3-6 
and 20-21). Zimbabwean women are 
making their presence felt in art, though 
there are more than loose ends to tie up (see 
pages 9-12). Black and white Africans are 
speaking out against the West's narrow 
vision of our identities, forcing them to 
reconsider their 'summings up' and 'judg- 
ments' (see pages 7-8). 

What Zimbabwe's contribution to the 
Johannesburg Biennale (see pages 13-16) 
does show is that our society is recognising 
the richness of diversity, the importance of 
open-mindedness and tolerance, and the role 
of art in extending our understanding of both 
ourselves and of each other 

The Biennale presents us with a wide 
platform, opportunities to learn, and 
hopefully, many Zimbabweans will be able 
to go South to benefit from the experience. 
We may not have the money and the 
resources to stage such a show, but Zimba- 
bwe has many creative and energetic 

individuals, and a society can only grow 
when its individuals do. 

Here is a list of some of the exhibitions that 
will be part of the Biennale: 

Johannesburg Art Gallery Installations : site 
specific works within the gallery by 
contemporary South African artists 
San/Bushman A rt. Past and Present 
Taking Liberties — The Body Politic : 
preoccupations with the human body 
Objects of Defiance/Spaces of Contempla- 
tion : women's experiences of the world 
Volatile Colonies : a fundamental challenge 
to Western aesthetics 

SpaceA Dis )place : the physical and ideologi- 
cal limits of sculpture 
Mamelodi Today, Mamelodi Tomorrow : 
celebrating a community through music, art, 
dance and performance 
Windows, Doors and Bridges : Soweto 

Kopano : artists working on the boundaries 
of tribal traditions and urbanised westernisa- 

FcLx Project : artworks faxed from all over 
the world 

Jobs, Journeys, Jo 'burg : trekkers, migrants, 
borders, dislocation and identity fashioned 
through movement 

My Area : photographic insights into diverse 
people's lives 

Beyond Boundaries : a workshop of street 

Africa Earthed : bridging the contradictions 
and divisions in South African ceramics 
Katlehong Art Centre : larger than life wire 
figures with moving parts 
Arches, Murals and Trees : installations in 
public spaces 

Mobile Art Gallery : a bus running work- 
shops at various stops between Newtown 
and Soweto 

International Print Exchange : dialogues 
across cultural and geographic boundaries 
by 44 international and South African artists 

It is a pity that publicity and information 
about the events and exhibitions have not 
been fuller and more timely in Zimbabwe. 
However for those who cannot take part, in 
the next issue of Gallery, we hope to bring 
news, views and reviews of the Biennale and 
of how Zimbabwe's art scene and our artists 
stand by comparison. 

The Editor 

Art historian, Olive Maggs, considers the work 
of four young Zimbabwean artists 



A few years ago, if you had asked anyone to tell you what was happening in the art 

world in Zimbabwe the answer would most probably have been about recent work by 

'Shona' sculptors. Now, in 1995, we see the beginnings of a new chapter in the story of 

Zimbabwean art, inventive and exciting developments in painting by two already 

recognised painters, Luis Meque and Fasoni Sibanda, and innovatory use of subject and 

materials in sculpture by Keston Beaton and Crispen Matekenya. 

All of these artists have exhibited at both Gallery Delta and the National Gallery. 

However, when their work appeared together in November 1994 in the Gallery Delta 

show entitled 'New Directions', there was no mistaking the strength of this new 

generation of Zimbabwean artists. Each one of these artists' work shows a desire for 

truth and sincerity, both in the approach to subject and to the materials and medium used. 

There is a definite change of mood in this new generation of artists: an expenmental 

attitude towards technique and materials; a self-conscious liberation from their cultural 

or artistic conventions. Their work shares a dependence on the impact of ordinary 

moments taken from everyday life and has a capacity for immense vision. 

Let us take a closer look at these four artists who could herald the start of a new phase in 

the history of Zimbabwean art. 

Crispen Matekenya lives in Karoi and was a BAT 
Workshop student in the late 1980s. He has spent some 
years since then experimenting in sculpture using mainly 
stone and wood. His present work appears in an unusual 
wood from the Mutsamvi tree which he works semi- 
smooth, leaving a certain amount of scratched 
surface. He then covers it with a layer of red 
polish, giving an interesting burnished quality. 
Colour is used sparingly here and there to 
give added life. His subjects are taken from 
everyday life: The Hoer. The Sadza Eaters. The 
Musician. The Dancers II. The Dugout. They are lively, humor- 
ous, vigorous, and each one, hugely entertaining. Matekenya 
describes his preference for working in this particular wood as 
a desire to search for the subject and the form through the 

material. He says: 

"Stone is like mealie meal. You can only cook sadza. 

When you use wood, you must use your mind. Without 

the creativity you cannot make anything." 

We can interpret this as an infinitely modernist 
attitude to art. Quality in art depends not only on the 
raw matenals, but on the imagination with which they are handled. Further, that art may 
lie as much in the thought process which it excites as in the appearance of the piece 
itself. This is the key to Matakenya's work, the essence of which is a sense of move- 
ment, which the artist insists comes from the wood itself, and his ability to recognise 
form combined with a sense of fun — his work makes one smile each time one sees the 

piece, and that is an achievement! 

Crispen Matekenya, 
The Musician, 
The Dancers II, 
1994, approx 150cm 
X 150 cm, wood 

Art has been the subject of more 
experimentation worldwide in the last 
twenty years than in almost any other 
period. Preconceptions have been 
questioned and overturned; new 
media, in addition to new materials, 
have been pioneered. Keston 
Beaton's assemblages of various 
readymade objects can either amuse, 
for example, Mhira Typewriter, or 
shock. Rarely do they create any 
aesthetic emotion. Historically they 
derive from the readymades of Marcel 
Duchamp, the French Dada artist of 
the early years of this century and 
later, from the well-known assem- 
blages of Picasso, using actual objects 
and raw scrap materials to make three-dimensional constructions. 

Beaton's assemblages relate to this tradition yet his constructions are 
not created through revolutionary fervour but seem more motivated 
by nostalgia. There is something very comforting about his con- 
structions. Benniood Harp, and The King's Harp. The familiar 
materials used, such as pieces of scrap iron, steel wire, bolts and 
screws, convincingly come to life with a new personality. Although 
something of their ongin still remains, they have been transformed, 
challenging our understanding of the identity of everyday life. 

Keston Beaton, 

Mbira Typewriter, 

1994, approx 28cm x 20cm, 

found materials 

Fasoni Sibanda attended the BAT 
Workshop in the early 1990s. His work 
has appeared in Gallery Delta as well as in 
Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibitions 1992, 
1993 and 1994; in the latter, he received 
the Overall Award for Distinction in 
Painting. Sibanda lives and works in 
Zengeza, taking his subjects from the 
busy, colourful environment of Zengeza 
and Seke. His subject matter, centred as it 
is on human existence and values, possibly places him unconsciously 
following the tradition of those imaginative innovators of modernism 
— artists like Seurat, Van Gogh and the young Picasso. 

Sibanda sees himself as a witness, an observer of life. His works 
include subjects such as Zengeza Market and Consulting the Elders. 
However, to interpret his paintings as mere representations of life 
would be to only superficially touch the subject. Firewood Gather- 
ers is a painting entirely in this mode, a familiar image from 
anywhere in the country, but the quiet strength of the processional 

Staffer Ceiling 

Fasoni Sibanda, 

Firewood Gatherers, 

1994, 85cm X 99cm, 

mixed media (left) 

Fasoni Sibanda, 
Zengeza Martlet, 
1994, 65cm x 47cm, 
mixed media (above) 

figures and the sense of atmosphere in 
this painting suggest something else. 
They remind us of Van Gogh's words in 
one of his letters to his brother, "all reality 
is at the same lime symbolic." 

Using thick brushwork and heavily 
applied paint throughout his large figure 
compositions, Sibanda combines figures 
and surroundings, and so applies the same 
sentiment to the landscape as to the 
figures. His use of colour is uninhibited; 
his brushstrokes plainly visible on the 
surface. There is a feeling of confidence 
and freedom to improvise in his use of 
bold colours and forms Although he 
would be the first to say he was still 
experimenting, Sibanda has already 
achieved an impressive style and we 
should expect further developments 
from this forward looking artist. 

Luis Meque is Mozambican by birth and attended the BAT Work- 
shop in the late 1980s. Since then his painting career has gone from 
strength to strength. He is at present arguably the artist with the 
most uniquely recognisable style in Zimbabwe. He has shown his 
work in a number of Gallery Delta group shows and in the Zimba- 
bwe Heritage Exhibitions of 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993 and 1994, 
having obtained the Overall Award for Distinction in Painting in 
1993. In 1994, he had solo exhibitions at Gallery Delta and at the 
National Gallery which also holds a number of his works in its 

Luis Meque, 

The Guard, 1994, 

69cm X 87cm, 

mixed media (left) 

Luis Meque, 

/ Love You, 

1994, 68cm x 85cm, 

mixed media (below) 

permanent collection. What is it about the 
work of this artist that is so special? 

Walking into a room of Meque's work is 
like walking into a room where everyone is 
involved in private conversations. You 
intrude into a claustrophobic world of 
personal involvement, of subjective 
emotionalism. Meque often takes his 
subjects from the world of the nightclub, 
the beerhall or the street comer. There is no 
explicit message, no drama. His figures, 
painted in bright colours, emerge out of the 
darkness of their background, and are 
caught in a timeless, motionless state. This 
is further emphasised by the total absence 
of background, perspective and detail, 
leaving a crude composition with a rugged 
and unrefined touch. 

Paintings such as Meque's The Guard take a hold of one. They 
demand your attention because something intense is taking place. 
The detail, however, never becomes clear. Jaggers, the mid- 
twentieth century British sculptor said, "Exaggeration and modifica- 
tion are the prerogative oflhe creative artist." Meque understands 
that one of the most important aspects of an expressionist's .style is 
created by using striking outline and form. Subordinate forms, that 
might undermine the overall impact, are removed. 

Meque also has the ability to choose subjects that one instinctively 
feels matter hugely. This may result from a deep emotional 

Keston Beaton, 

Bentwood Harp, 

1994, 87cm x 63cm, 

found materials 

involvment with the content of his paintings. He has not found it 
easy to settle here in Zimbabwe. He says, "Life was loughfor me." 
He speaks of problems he has with close relationships, there is a 
sense of loneliness, of alienation. . . "/ paint about love." Certainly 
we see this as a recurrent theme in works like / Love You and 
Girlfriend. Perhaps it is the sense of being apart from the crowd that 
has enabled Meque to develop such an individual and expressive 
style with immense vision. 

Claes Oldenburg said that to give birth to a form is the only act of 
man that has any consequence. If this is true, Meque has accom- 
plished nothing less than a vision of indigenous people that stays 
fixed permanently in the mind, encompassing both the colour and 
the culture of the country. When I eventually leave this country, it 
will be Luis Meque's vision of Zimbabwe that I will take with me. 

Of all the art produced at the present time here in Zimbabwe, the 
work of Crispen Matekenya, Keston Beaton, Fasoni Sibanda 
and Luis Meque must be some of the most representative of the 
new spirit in the country. How is it that these four artists display 
a readiness to experiment, consciously searching for a new 
language, discarding the conventions of modernism in art here to 

Looking for something that they all share in common we 

find their training at the BAT Workshop. Meque. Beaton 

and Matekenya were at the 

workshop in the late 1980s, 

Sibanda in the early 199()s. One 

of the workshop's early tutors 

was Paul Wade from England, a 

rebel by temperament, who 

brought with him ideas from his art 

school training in Britain. At the BAT 

Workshop, he created an environment which 


encouraged students to experiment with 
matenals, introduced them to the work of 
modem European artists, and helped them to 
extend their subject matter beyond the myths 
and legends so popular with 'Shona' sculp- 
tors. Wade himself, as a non-Zimbabwean, 
was free from the cultural heritage carried 
consiously or unconsciously by the students he taught. He was a 
liberating as well as an inspirational example to those he taught and 
to the foundation and development of the workshop in the midst of 
the conformist and conventional nature of Zimbabwean culture. 

Such evolution and progression is nothing new to Africa. In 1989, 
Frank Willet wrote: 

"African art has always been subject to change, and it 
appears that this rale has accelerated during the present 
century, due to the ever increasing influx of Western ideas and 

Regrettably this has led to many of the old African ways of life being 
forgotten. But it has been said that the second half of the twentieth 
century is proving to be a penod of artistic renaissance for Afnca. 

Beaton, Matekenya, Meque and Sibanda are going through a stage of 
varied explorations, excited by the art of other countries, rather as 
European artists were stimulated by African and Oceanic art at the 
beginning of this century. Surely this cannot be regarded as a 
fatalistic situation, but rather as a natural evolution. The art of 

Zimbabwe is changing direction. These artists are now 
^ being absorbed into the international world of 

^^^s<^^^ modern art, which itself owes some of its 

j ^^*^^»_^ j^ character to the stimulus of traditional 

"^ ^^'i African art. It seems the wheel 

has come full circle. What is 
important is that, in lime. 
these artists can assimilate 
the artistic traditions of their 
ancestors into their art and that 
their work finds patronage more with the 
people of Zimbabwe than with visiting 
patronage as it is at present. 

Crispen Matekenya, 

The Dugout, 1994, 

102cm X 59cm, wood 

Slofff Gelling 

The labelling of 'ethnic' art was the focus of a conference 
attended and summarised here by Murray McCartney 

The unspoken tyranny : 
looking South from Norway 

"There are two alternating and yet complemen- 
tary pulsations in our centurx's involvement 
with primitive societies and the idea of the 
primitive: a rhetoric of control, in which 
demeaning colonialist tropes get modified only 
slightly over lime: and a rhetoric of desire, 
ultimately more interesting, which implicates 
'us ' in the 'them ' we try to conceive as the 
Other " 

(Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage 
Intellects, Modem Lives. Chicago, 1990) 

On the face of it, Oslo is an unlikely place in which to 
find a debate about the arts of Africa. Norway has no 
colonial history, only a modest number of immigrants 
from the continent, and a cultural inclination to look 
West and East as much as it looks South. 

Enter Langton Masunda, from Bulawayo. Masunda 
arrived in Oslo six years ago to study economics, and 
stayed on; for the past two years he has been running 
the Galleri African Heritage, an enterprise which 
introduces art from Africa to Norwegians through its 
programme of exhibitions, and its changing stock of 
paintings and sculpture. The responses have been 
mixed. One of the big frustrations for Masunda has 
been the continuing public tendency to lump the art of 
Africa into a strait-jacket of exotic separate-ness. 
Contemporary shows are disregarded unless the work 
fits into the ethnic stereotypes which have been 
fashioned by European conceit and international 

In an effort to lift the veil from Norwegian eyes, 
Masunda organised, in October last year, an interna- 
tional conference, 'Ethnic' An in a Multicultural 
World. Speakers from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania 
and the USA, as well as Norv/ay, addressed an 
enthusiastic audience of artists, teachers, and curators. 

"Art history is peculiar in its function as a 
master narrative, not only in that it is fundamen- 
tal in its recognition and legitimation of art with 
a capital A, but that it seems to be the only 
discourse (unlike the discourse of literature or 
science) which protects its Western territory so 
rigidly that we find hardly any exception to its 
Eurocentric rules. " 

The words are from Rasheed Araeen, in his catalogue 
introduction to The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in 
Post-war Britain, an exhibition held in London's 

Hay ward Gallery in 1989. They were echoed at the 
conference by Norwegian anthropologist. Thomas 
Hyland Eriksen, who focused on the myths which the 
colonial context sustains, and on the dilemmas of 
authenticity which face artists from the non- 
hegemonic comers of the globe. 

"The power of the colonial view of the world is 
greater than that of money; changing that view, 
is harder than nationalising the sugar mills. " 

Eriksen gave the example of Phillis Wheatley. the 
mneteenth century slave poet. Owned in Boston, she 
wrote sonnets in the Shakespearean style and no-one 
believed that she could have done them herself The 
issue went to court, and when she had passed the 'test' 
to prove her bona fides, the immediate response was: 

"Well, she may have written them, but they 
aren 't authentic. Where are the calls for the 
wilderness of the forests? She's imitating the 
white man! " 

So, suggested Eriksen, such artists have to deal with 
the culturally specific, so that we can regard it as 
unreal and exotic. The 'authentic' is everything that 
we are not, or would like to pretend that we are not. It 
is linked in turn to the 'myth of primilivism', that 
benevolent structuralist fiction built around those 
artists whose thought is not domesticated by writing 
and education, and who bring an 'original freshness' 
to their work. As long as the pnmitive stays primitive, 
he's not a threat, and doesn't have to be ranked; he can 
be admired from afar, and provide material for dreams. 
Harare galleries and dealers, some operating as far 
afield as California, are not alone in buttressing the 
thesis by their use of 'ethnicity' and 'naivety' as 
marketing endorsements. 

Concerning the strategic response of contemporary 
artists to the dilemma of ethnic pigeon-holing, Eriksen 
agreed with the suggestion that they might take a leaf 
out of the book of the women's movement, which used 
the canon of 'women's art' out of pohtical necessity. 
He referred to immigrants in Europe using their status 
self-consciously in the early years of assimilation; and 
to the Swami people of northern Norway using their 
own language as a tactical assertion of national 
identity. People who fight colonialism, he argued, 
cannot be post-colonial before they have been anti- 
colonial. As the Mozambican artist, Luis Meque, 
wrote recently; 


Hilary Kashiri, 
After Work, 1993, 
acrylic on paper. 




an expression of 


African reality? 

"By living in the ghetto I became a painter. I am 
black. I feel black. I paint black and my art is 
black. " 

An instructive parallel to colonial inythologising was 
presented by Eugene Metcalf, in his paper on Ameri- 
can Outsider art. Outsider art is done by people who 
are without the social or cultural power to define what 
they do as 'art'. In 1945, French artist Jean Debuffet 
discovered a new kind of primitive art. Searching for 
forms to free him from the established social and 
aesthetic norms, for an art disconnected from civilised 
artifice and imposed traditions, Debuffet found, in 
Swiss mental hospitals, the raw and seemingly 
uncontaminated materials he sought. 

Looking beyond aesthetics, it is necessary to review 
the way that 'otherness' is used by people to define 
and legitimate their own boundaries: the 'other' can 
only exist as being codified by the 'insider', and so it 
is to the 'insider' that we must look. 

Tourism, for example, provides a model for this, in its 
establishment of a relationship between insiders and 
outsiders. The over-civiliscd and repressive nature of 
contemporary northern society, has made the preserva- 
tion of other people and places something of a modem 
mission. Tounsts use and control people and places, 
just as cultural insiders define normality and deviancy. 
Both have power Mass tourism and its support 
institutions first developed at the turn of this century, 
at roughly the same time the modem idea of the 
'other' was emerging through the development and 
professionalisation of anthropology. 

The development of both anthropology and tourism 
was prompted, in part, by the emerging belief that the 
progress of modemity had come at a terrible cost. One 
consequence of this has been the enshrinement of 
'wildemess' areas in Africa; another has been the 
development of the market for meretricious (often 
called 'artistic') souvenirs, those false symbolic 
objects which indemnify the tourist for having been 
cut off from an authentic experience of the world, 
from physical contact with other human beings. 
African painting in a European idiom, for instance, has 
little place in this universe. 

Nor are definitions of 'other' based only on geographi- 
cal distance; they also relate to distance in time. 
Development, for instance, proceeds from the 
pnmiiive to the civilised; cultural advancement stands 
in contradistinction to something 'further back in 
time'. Insiders do not study these categories, they 
speak in terms of them. The 'outsider' and 'primitive' 
are epistemological constructs: we think of the 
concept, and then impwse it on others. 

Metcalf invoked the history of black painting in 
America to amplify his thesis. Having more or less 
conformed to white aesthetic models at the turn of the 
century, it created more powerful and creative images 
of blacks in the Harlem Renaissance which coincided 
with the urban migration of the 1920s and 30s. The 
more recent development of 'new black art' still 
defines blacks as outsiders, and allows group self- 
definition by those who regard people of colour as 

This symbolic inversion — in which group member- 
ship is defined not by shared characteristics, but by the 
unshared characteristics of others — is, Metcalf 
argues, 'a tyranny never spoken or discussed" . If 
exhibitions such as the Zimbabwe Heritage have made 
tentative steps in the direction of opening a debate, 
they will make little serious progress until the issue is 
tackled in a more intellectually self-conscious way. 

Langton Masunda had been moved to convene the 
conference by his unresolved feelings of uneasiness: at 
the limited knowledge of Africa demonstrated by the 
people he meets in Oslo; at the caution of clients when 
presented with art which falls outside their stereotyped 
views of how African art should look; at the arrogance 
and limited vision occasionally shown by those 
responsible for organising 'official' exhibitions of 
non-European art in Norway. The initiative was 
praised by those who lamented the absence of much 
post-colonial discourse in Norway. But the country's 
generally progressive development policies, and its 
freedom from the taints of imperial adventurism, were 
not enough to exempt it from the broader charges 
which the debate inspired. Thomas Erik.sen quoted 
from a press review of Vikram Seth's award-winning 
novel, A Suitable Boy. which found it "funny that an 
Indian has written such a long book in English " . 

Langton Masunda, and the visual arts of the South, are 
not alone in their struggle. If the conference came up 
with no answers, it was because it was set no ques- 
tions. What it did offer to those present, however, was 
an outline of the historical and political contexts 
within which the labelling of ethnic art takes place. Art 
is always pt)litical: what is 'beautiful' always has to do 
with who's doing it, and who has power. 

Art can 
or fight 
Pip Curling examines 
the images of women 
created by Zimbabwe's 
^ women artists 

V I *dfe'the 

body politic 

It is a great pity that it is 
necessary for the National 
Gallery to host the Longman 
Women Visual Artists Exhibi- 
tion. The pity is not the 
exhibition itself but its implied 
stigma of separatism. One 
annual acknowledgement of 
women artists as specifically 
separate from the main body of 
artists only further serves to 
isolate women as different 
from the mainstream of 
cultaral expression. 

The Longman exhibition has 
no particular agenda other than 
the gender of the artists. For 
the sensitive viewer, however, 
many of the works on the 
second Longman exhibition, 
held in August 1994, carry a 
hidden agenda of women's 
attitudes towards themselves, 
their bodies and their relation- 
ship towards society. When a 
woman artist makes a work in 

which she represents women, 
she does so with the burden of 
knowledge of the stereotypical 
images of women. 

Women's bodies are the single 
most used and exposed objects 
in the media and the visual 
arts. Contemporary news 
magazine photographs 
represent 'third world' women 
as Ignorant, poor, uneducated, 
tradition-bound, domestic and 
victimised. Western women, 
whose bodies adorn advertis- 
ing campaigns, are displayed 
as sensual, overtly aggressive 
or submissively passive, 
provocative and, above all, 
available. What binds all these 
images of women together is a 
sociological sameness in that 
they reflect and represent 
men's greed and power. A 
Somali woman offering her 
empty, sagging breast to her 
emaciated child is as much a 

sacrificial victim as is her 
western counterpart, the 
half-starved, etiolated model 
whose body spread-eagles the 
sleek lines of an expensive 
motor car in the pages of a 
glossy magazine. Enshrined in 
the collective psyche of 
humankind is the belief that 
women are physical bodies 
destined to be little more than 
breeding machines. Pregnancy 
and childbirth make women's 
bodies vulnerable. Marriage 
renders them marketable. 

One of the favourite subjects 
for Zimbabwe stone sculptors 
is 'Mermaid' (a dangerous 
being who seduces young girls 
into rivers and transforms them 
into witches), another is 'Shy 
Girl' (a pathetic creature who 
hides her face from the world). 
In the West, the female nude 
has a long history of exposure. 
Imaged as goddess or idealised 


Colleen Madamombe, 

Shy Bride, 

1994, serpentine 

Danielle Deudney, 

The Queens of Infinite Space 

(detail), 1994, colour photo 


beauty, the nude has been, in 
fact, nothing more than a 
sexual object to titillate the 
desires of men. 

It is no surpnse that women 
artists either circumvent the 
problem of facing their own 
bodies by painting landscapes; 
or they perpetuate traditional 
stereotypes about themselves. 
For example, paintings on the 
Longman exhibition such as 
Wood at Dusk, Summertime, 
Winter Afternoon at Home and 
Garden Statue are works about 
aesthetically pleasing visual 
escapism. Not that it is 
necessarily a bad thing to want 
to escape, nor that the work is 
less worthy for being pleasur- 
able rather than didactic. If 
women artists choose to 
turn away and seek what is 
pleasant rather than confront 
what can be painful, they have 
an inalienable right to do so. 
Conversely, Luness Mhlope's 
paintings, /4 Woman Suffers 

and A Woman Carries a 
Burden, perpetuate the image 
of women as helpless and do 
not encourage the woman 
viewer to re-image herself as 
able to overcome her suffenng 
and her burdens. These works 
tread old well-worn paths 
without taking the initiative to 
break new ground. 

Some women artists disclose a 
personal commitment to 
exposing the myths which 
have held women captive; 
others celebrate the essential 
femaleness of women's bodies. 
Colleen Madamombe's large 
stone sculpture, SIty Bride, is a 
restatement of the popular 
theme. The bride hides her 
face with her hands and 
exposes her buttocks. She is 
adorned by her hair and her 
skirt. Her legs, hidden beneath 
the skirt, are truncated and 
useless. The skirt is both a 
garment and a restnction to 
movement. These legs will 

never walk; the bride is held 
captive in the cage of her own 

In her triptych. Tlie Queens of 
Infinite Spacei 1 ), Danielle 
Deudney examines the 
possibility of fantasy as a way 
of dealing with the plethora of 
photographs of women. Her 
'Queens' are crowned with 
eggshells, roses and glass. But 
they are blinded by the same 
stuff as their crowns are made 

The title of Mollier Going to 
the Clinic with Three Children 
by Cecilia Chitemo is suffi- 
ciently informative for there to 
be no doubt as to the subject of 
the work. Her three children 
are all very young. Two are 
carried on their mother's back. 
This woman is literally a child- 
bearer We don't know why 
she is going to the clinic. We 
wonder if she is going for 
family planning advice or if 

Cecilia Chitemo, 

Mother Going to the Clinic 

with Three Children, 

1994, textile sculpture 

Bulelwa Madekurozva, 
Self Portrait, ^994, o\\ 

this is a routine visit. Are the 
children ill? Whatever the 
reason for her journey we 
know she is a mother and her 
strong upright body supports 
her children. Her breasts, 
although hidden by her blouse, 
are nevertheless carefully and 
meticulously modelled with an 
attention to detail that makes 
this work all the more poign- 

The young woman behind her 
guitar in Bulelwa 
Madekurozva's Self Portiailil) 
is enigmatic. Her gaze is 
confrontational. The ghost of 
her alter-ego stares, wild-eyed, 
over her shoulder. This is not 
an idealisation of the self It is 
an exploration of an individual 
into her own psyche. 
Madekurozva takes a long, 
cool, objective look at herself. 
The viewer looks at the artist. 
The experience is not voyeunst 
so much as unsettling in its 
invitation to women to seize 

the courage to examine 
themselves with the same 
unrelenting detachment. 

/ am Not the One by Joan 
Dunstan (not illustrated) is 
about women abandoned by 
the fathers of their children. 
The unborn child is exposed in 
the womb of its mother as its 
father disappears off stage. 
This work is about the 
immutable fact that women 
are, literally, left holding the 
baby. It is about denial of 
responsibility for paternity. Its 
statement, like the stark black 
and white of the image, is clear 
and unequivocal. In Phillipa 
Browne's Pregnant in the 
Plough (not illustrated), a full 
frontal, nude, pregnant, female 
figure, is a similarly premedi- 
tated, unambiguous comment. 

Female Harp (see Caller,- no. 
1 page 20) by Semina Mpofu, 
on the other hand, suggests an 
allegory on women's sexuality. 

The musical instrument, lying 
supine, is passive and silent 
until roused by the hand of 
man. (The mbira is the 
instrument traditionally played 
by men) The female 'body' in 
this work IS a rhythmically 
curved, smooth piece of stone. 
At the base of the body, the 
half sphere is a metaphor for 
womb that envelops the harp 
whose keys hint at pubic hair. 
There are many possible 
interpretations of Female 
Harp. 1 have offered only one, 
informed by a particular and 
personal bias. When art 
proffers ambiguities of 
imagery it invites the viewer to 
engage in a dialogue to reveal 
its possible meaning. 

Mary Davies' Giants and the 
Lone Woolf is a Western pun 
on a name, which the literate 
viewer will immediately 
associate with the title of 
Edward Albee's play. Who's 
Afraid of Virginia Woolf. 


Mary Davies, 

Giants and the Lone Woolf, 

1994, mixed media 


Woolf, the token woman, joins 
the 'giants' of politics, science 
and letters. She is one of the 
important role-models for 
modem feminists and is most 
remembered for her call for 
every woman to have "a room 
of one's own". Hence the key- 
holes in the work are a double 
entendre, they remind us of 
that room and are also the 
means by which a male voyeur 
might peep at bodies of 
women as they dress and 
undress. In the lower half of 
the work, the shapes of the 
key-holes become the faceless 
heads of women whose 
identities have been lost by 
men's distorted writing of their 

Women's bodies have a history 
of being dangerous when 
exposed in any way. Jewish 

law allowed a man to divorce 
his wife if she appeared in 
public with her hair uncovered. 
St Paul told the early Chris- 
tians that any woman who 
came to church bareheaded 
should have her head shaved. 
Tenullian, a father of the 
Christian church said, in the 
third century, "The bloom 
of a virgin 's face is responsible 
for the fall of angels and ought 
to be kept shaded when it has 
cast stumbling blocks even as 
far as heaven" Buddha 
declared the body of a woman 
to be "filthy and not a vessel 
for the law". At the University 
of Zimbabwe, in 1993, male 
students attacked a young 
woman because her skirt was, 
in their estimation, too short 
for their idea of decency. Her 
exposed legs were offensive to 

Women, whose bodies are 
exposed to public debate and 
control, but whose lives are 
hidden in the private domestic- 
ity of the home, have learned 
to speak furtively about 
themselves. Other women 
have the power to turn the key 
in the locked door so that 
women's stones will be seen, 
heard and interpreted. 
Adnenne Rich says: 

"Either you will 
go through this door 
or you will not go 

If you go through 
there is always the risk 
of remembering your 


1 Ttiese photograplis were not on the 
I-ongman Exhibition They were on the 
Ziinbabwe Heritage Exhibition 

2 This work was not part of the 
l.onpm.'in Exhibition but was exhibited 
at the National Gallery's Polytechnic 
Students" Show. 

"....what we see here is an active demonstration 
of the return to Africa 
of the African artistic initiative 
and Afrocentrism expressed 
in a language that can generate interest 
for the rest of the world. " 

Thakor Patel, 
Untitled, 1994, 
poster colour 

Towards an integrative source; 
Art Zimbabwe 

Curator, Doreen Sibanda, 

writes about the Zimbabwean exhibition 

at the Johannesburg Biennale 


Last year I was invited to curate an exhibition of Zimbabwean art for the First 
Johannesburg Biennale, scheduled to run from the end of February through to 
the 30th of April this year. The exhibition is being conceptualised around two 
broad and inter-related themes and curators were invited to respond to these 
themes in any way they wished. The two themes are 'Volatile alliances' and 
'Decolonising our mmds'. 

My original intention was to put together a collection of works in which the 
artists' images depicted races and cultures other than their own. Such an 
emphasis on race would be quite natural in Zimbabwe, where artists from 
different races and cultures have co-existed in a potentially volatile state for 
many years. My motivation was, more specifically, urged on by recent 
indications of some disquiet amongst the races. 

Helen Lieros, 

Three Aspects of Man (triptych), 

1995, pen, ink & wash 

To the contrary, what has emerged from my examination of the work being 
produced is the fact that most artists are drawing from the same source — that 
of the dominant cultural and social reality of Zimbabwe today. 

It should be pointed out that artistically the colonial period in Zimbabwe was 
marked by few white artists that drew inspiration from Africa, and those that 
did, confined their work to broad and rugged landscape and abstract paintings. 
At the same time, most of the early black artists strove to imbibe Western 
perceptions of what African artists should be, and were content to produce non- 
controversial work with a strong portrayal of the tnbesman image. 

Since the mid-eighties, there has been a steady and strong move towards a 
more integrated perception of the dominant environment, culture and aesthet- 
ics, brought about mainly by an increase in communication amongst the artists, 
the mushrooming of art training facilities for African artists, and the participa- 
tion by cross-sections of artists in practical residential art workshop situations. 

Thus, my collection is a representation of recent work by prominent black and 
white artists of Zimbabwe, in an attempt to underline their increasingly 
innovative handling of materials, their preoccupation with local African 
phenomena, and to gauge the extent to which, as a result of several years of a 
multi-cultural environment with its acculturative and internationalising effect, 
the work is now moving towards a more integrated source — the specific 
source of Zimbabwe. 


Gone are the works of anger and of urgency that featured prominently in the 
years immediately following independence, and although it is still possible to 
discern the individual artist's own history, experiences and preferences in the 
works, it is clear that all the artists, especially the white artists, are no longer 
looking to the n.jtropolitan centres to provide their direction. Instead what we 
see here is an active demonstration of the return to Africa of the African artistic 
initiative and Afrocentrism expressed in a language that can generate interest 
for the rest of the world. 

The stone sculptors that have been singled out for inclusion in the exhibition 
have surpassed the limitations that the worid-wide success of the Shona 
sculpture movement has produced. These mclude Mukomberanwa and Nkomo. 
The more innovative and expenmental sculptors are represented by Gutsa, 
Muzondo and Jack , who move towards a more personalised and ambiguous 

Works by long-standing painters Patel, Mukarobgwa, Curling, Bickle and 
Lieros, reveal an interesting selection of ideas from the wealth of African 
mythology, cultural idiosyncrasies and material symbols that are finely tuned to 
their temperaments and experiences, while the new generation of young African 
painters is represented by artists Luis Meque and Fasoni Sibanda, both of 
whom engage in a broad handling of contemporary and urban issues. 


Berry Bickle, 

T for Tears and African Alphabet, 

1994, mixed media 


Richard Jack, 
Listening to the Wind, 
1994, serpentine & steel 
(below left) 

Adam Madebe, 
Quartet, 1994, stainless 
& mild steel 
(below right) 

Art Zimbabwe 

works to be included in the exhibition at the First Johannesburg Biennale 

Berry Bickle, T for Tears, 198cm x 139cm, mixed media Berry Bickle, African Alphabet, 192cm x 137cm, 
mixed media Pip Curling, Portrait of Juliana, 91cm x 81cm, oil Pip Curling, Interior, Borrowdale, 202cm 

X 107cm, oil Tapfuma Gutsa, Tfie Suitcase, 152cm x 130cm, wood & 
steel Richard Jack, Time to Share, 52cm x 50cm, stone, wood, wool, 
steel & reeds Richard Jack, Listening to the Wind, 65cm x 31 cm, stone 
& steel Helen Lieros, Lobola, 100cm x 87cm, mixed media Helen 
Lieros, Black/White Rider, 108cm x 87cm, mixed media Helen Lieros, 
N'anga's Dream, 158cm x 124cm, mixed media Helen Lieros, Three 
Aspects of Man (triptych), 67cm x 61cm 61cm x 44cm (2), pen, ink & 
wash Adam Madebe, Quartet, 197cm x 115cm, stainless steel & mild 
steel Luis Meque, Social Life, 109cm x 83cm, mixed media Luis 
Meque, Lovers, 109cm x 83cm, mixed media Luis Meque, Violence in 



ij Thomas 

the Street, 109cm x 83cm, mixed media Thomas 
Receiving the Breath, 112cm x 91.5cm, oil Thomas 
We Came Across - Let's We Talk, 112cm x 91.5cm, oil 

Mukarobgwa, The Life Figure in the Country, 112cm x 
Nicholas Mukomberanwa Watching, approx 46cm x 
Joseph Muzondo, Looking Beyond the Year 2000, 
serpentine, metal & copper Taylor Nkomo, A Dream, 
springstone Thakor Patel, Untitled I, 87cm x 56cm, 
Thakor Patel, Untitled II, 87cm x 56cm, poster paint 
Untitled III, 64cm x 53cm, poster paint Fasoni Sibanda, 
76cm, mixed media Fasoni Sibanda, L/nf/f/ed, 84cm x 

I i 



9 1 . 5 c m , o i I 
20cm, stone 
153cm x 37cm, 

-, 68cm X 50cm, 


poster paint 

Thakor Patel, 

Kumusha, 99cm x 
61cm, mixed media 

Stnffer Gelling 






Workshops are a problematic but essential part of the 
African art scene. Stephen Williams writes about the 
Thapong International Artists' Workshop in Botswana. 

American sculptor, 
Fritz Buenher, at worl< 
outside the yellow tent 

South African artist, 
Sophia Ainslie, talks 
about her work 

Most people north of the Tati know 
Mahalapye only as a bend in the Great 
North Road or a blur of low dusty build- 
ings glimpsed from a moving car or tram 
window. But, in terms of art, the town has 
recently gained significance as the new 
home of the Thapong International Artists' 

The formative years of Thapong (1989 - 
1991) were in Kanye, a small town in the 
south west of the country on the edge of 
'the great thirst', the Kalahari Desert. 
However, since 1992, the workshop has 
been held on an annual basis at the 
Kanamo Centre, which nestles several 
kilometres off the main road along the 
northern bank of the Mhalatswe River, a 
river in the true Botswana sense — a broad 
expanse of sand which stores its water 
below its surface as protection against the 
intense heat. 

A large yellow marquee has over the years 
become the heart of the workshop. Used to 
accommodate the painters, and the scene of 

unting spiders of the yellow tent 



Nharo San artist, 
Thame Kaashe, 
at Thapong, 

many memorable extramural events over 
the year, the yellow tent has now become 
part of Thapong folklore. Apart from 
being intensely hot, the tent acts as a 
massive yellow filter which does bizarre 
things to the tonalities of the paintings 
being created inside it. Reds, yellows and 
oranges which appear almost fluourescent 
when applied often die when taken outside 
into the reality of daylight. 

An analogous problem occurs at the 
Triangle Workshop in Pine Plains, New 
York, where painters work in old wooden 
bams which cast a dull brown light over 
their paintings. 

The condition of light affects the way in 
which we see things. In Africa, the sua 
bleaches out colour and forms harsh, dark 
shadows. The way in which light trans- 
forms objects and affects colour has long 
fascinated artists. In essence, light was the 



subject matter of Impressionist painters 
such as Monet who strove to record the 
effects of changing light in his series of 
Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral. Gauguin 
described shadows as the trompe I'oeil of 
the sun. What effect then does a brown bam 
in the USA or a yellow tent in Africa have 
on the development of our contemporary 

Such considerations aside, other day to day 
hazards at Thapong mclude persistent 
swarms of mosquitoes, huge kamikaze 
rhinoceros beetles, scorpions and fleets of 
huntmg spiders. Overseas visitors are 
particularly fascinated by the latter which, 
attracted by the projected light dunng night 
slide shows, race across the floor, pincers 
aloft, in search of prey amid much shneking 
and raising of feet. 

Thapong is to Botswana what the 
Pachipamwe Workshop is to Zimbabwe, but 
there the similanties end. Fundamental 
differences exist between the two work- 
shops, particulariy in the crucial area of 
organisation. Where Pachipamwe is run on 
an ad hoc basis. TTiapong is managed by a 
standing committee which works collec- 
tively with a vision of promoting and 
elevating visual art in Botswana. By 
contrast, the Zimbabwean workshop 
staggers from one year to the next, not only 
without a permanent committee, but amidst 
much recrimination, politics and finger 
pointing. This aspect more than anything 
else has served to make the organising of 
the Pachipamwe Workshop a nightmare, 
with most people who have braved it 
swearing never to be involved again. 
TTiapong employs a full-time co-ordinator 
who is based at the National Museum and 
Art Gallery in Gaberone and whose 
endeavours are actively supported by that 
institution. The pivotal organising functions 
of TTiapong are thus firmly rooted within 
and controlled by Botswana's art commu- 
nity, a factor which has enabled the 
workshop to more successfully resist 
external manipulation than its Zimbabwean 

TTiapong has received recognition in 
Botswana for the role that it has played m 
enriching visual art culture in the country 
and dragging it out of the dark ages. Just 
five years ago, Botswana had only a handful 
of acknowledged artists while most 
foreigners identified Botswana's contempo- 
rary matenal culture with the curio produc- 
ers who ply their wares along the line of 
railway sidings at Shashe. By creating a 
forum for dialogue, innovation and inquiry, 
Thapong has nurtured a new generation of 
young Batswana artists who are ushering in 
a fresh view and awareness of contemporary 

... and Murray McCartney offers some alternate 
views in his opening address at the Pachipamwe 
Zimsculpture Workshop Exhibition at the Alliance 
Francaise in Harare 


This opening of the Zimsculpture 
Pachipamwe Exhibition gives me the 
opportunity to raise a number of points 
regarding the development of art and culture 
here in Zimbabwe, and given the 'independ- 
ent' spirit of the Pachipamwe enterprise, the 
occasion is a most appropriate one. 

When I wrote about last year's Pachipamwe 
in the press, I was critical of what I regarded 
as an under-representation of women in the 
process. The criticism stands. If we are to 
call attention, and I think we must, to the 
way women are marginalised in other 
realms of society — whether in parliament, 
churches, corporate boardrooms or commu- 
nity associations — I don't think we can 
allow exemptions to be claimed by the 
culmral sector. 

There were criticisms of the 1993 
Pachipamwe from other people. ..'yo//j good 
fun for the participants... orgy of self- 
indulgence... messy left-overs of the 
party... " etc. There was, as well, talk of 
Pachipamwe pursuing "the worst of 
western, modernist e.xclusiveness, rooted in 
the concept of art as commodity " and a 
question: "Can we afford the indulgence?" 

I I 

i t 

Can we afford the indulgence? We can't not 
afford it. I don't think we have a choice. It 
is less an indulgence than ifait accompli. 

I have suggested that the interests and rights 
of a gender analysis know no sectoral 
boundaries. I now suggest that the same is 
true of the market, and this should give us 
equal pause for quiet consideration. 

And if the Pachipamwe Workshop — 
organised this time by the artists them- 
selves, rather that what I called last year, the 
"handmaidens' of external initiative — if 
the Pachipamwe Workshop is to face the 
market and deal with it honestly, then we 
must ask it to reflect on one or two impor- 
tant points. 

Women. None? Few? Many? As organis- 
ers? As artists? Remember first of all, that 
the market is no respector of persons; it is 

too with our sculptures and paintings: they 
are dragooned into service as icons ot 
exotic-ness, as souvenirs of another reahty. 

To me, the Pachipamwe Workshop, and this 
Zimsculpture exhibition which it has 
created, is one of the few institutional 
bastions which can resist and challenge that 
construction of reality. And if I have 
sounded a few words of caution, it is only 
because I would like to see it strengthen its 
resolve and effectiveness even further. 

Why do I call it a bastion? First, because of 
its internationalism; its disregard for either 
nation or race. Nine of the twenty-two 
participants here are from outside the 
country. This is not Zimbabwean sculpture, 
not Zimbabwean art. 

Second, because it gives practical form to 
the notions of collective work and the 
community of knowledge; ideas cease to be 
private property; we can take inspiration 
from each other, as readily as we take it 
from ourselves or our surroundings. 

Third, because of its unambiguous 
motivations. No-one hovered over the 
artists and said: I need so many pieces by 
such and such a date. No-one urged: I'm 
having a show called 'New Directions' and 
need something from you urgently. No-one 
commissioned any of these items to grace a 
new building or satisfy a personal whim. 





Keston Beaton, 
Plant Form, in 
progress at the 
Workshop, 1994 

essentially impersonal. It is unsentimental. 
It has more interest in appearances, than in 
truth; more concern for turning a coin than 
for rewarding integrity. It will control you. 
It will not allow you to consider the under- 
represented women; or the keen learners 
who may wish to break into your closed 
circle and study under your wings. It will 
take your self-expression, and transform it, 
by some species of alchemy, into self- 

And the market has another agenda. As we 
know, it is international, and as such it sets 
itself in a very particular relationship to art 
from the South. What does it want? Not 
work which is honestly to be put on a par 
with that produced in America, or Denmark, 
or England. Not at all. Just as our perform- 
ing artists tend to be feted in the North to 
the extent that they validate a Northern 
notion of what is expected from Africa, so 

What you see here, are the results of 
irresponsibility in its true sense. It is, if you 
like, above and beyond debates, or dictates. 
Some may call it license. Some may, 
indeed, deride it as indulgence. I prefer to 
call it freedom. 

I don't think the works are here to be 
judged, and I have no intention of judging 
them — certainly not in the way that a 
competitive exhibition invites judgement. 
They are here to show you what happens 
when a group of artists get together and 
create, away from the usual routines of 
daily life, to stimulate both the artists' 
imaginations, and the debates and discus- 
sions which I have touched on. 

I happen to hope that future workshops will 
offer us new talents, and new surprises. And 
I happen to believe that they can. It is my 
challenge to artists, to ensure that they do. 


Reviews of recent work 

Students' and young artists' 
exhibition, Gallery Delta, 
January/February 1995 

A sinking degree of confidence and 
exploration makes itself felt in this exhibi- 
tion. The prevailing mood is one of hope. 
From this lively spectrum of young artists, 
it is possible to single out a 
number of painters and «— ■ 

sculptors who may make a " | 

broader impact over the next 
few years. 

Highlights include Amanda 
McKenzie's series of clay 
heads, Semina Mpofu's 
instrumental figures and a 
large delightful surprise in the 
garden. Early Bicycle, a metal 
sculpture by Richard 

Semina Mpofu has a personal 
version of amalgamating stone 
and metal in her works. 
Female Harp and Soul Music 
(see Contents page). She pays 
tribute to her roots, so-called 
'Shona' sculpture, but marries 
it to innovation, and adds 
grace to whimsical distortion. 

The five clay heads. Libera- 
tion, Distortion, Transition, 
Progression and Existence, by 
Amanda McKenzie portray 
changes that are affecting the community. 

« t 

They depict not only mythological, fictious 
personalities, but also one's own experi- 
ences, and possibly refiect the impatient 
restlessness felt by many young artists. 

Tendai Gumbo relays a personal cosmology 
in her painting. Window and I, as a victim 

behind glass, a kind of psycho-symbolic 
prison from which the central figure peers 
out bleakly in an attempt to escape, or 
dangles powerlessly in its shadow. Her 
graphic, mixed media monotype. Puppet, 
allows us to concentrate on the expressive 
potential of surface texture and pictorial 

In Anke Bohne's works, the viewer 
is hard pressed to determine whether 
the images portray angst-ridden, 
ironic or autobiographical studies. 
By contrast, Dylan Lloyd's draw- 
ings/paintings demonstrate the belief 
that "drawing is really about 
precision, balance and discipline not 
just representation ". 

The Luis Meque influence, his way 
of approaching the subject and 
application of paint, is hopefully 
disappearing. The young artists on 
this exhibition embrace human 
experiences of people, their 
relationships to things, relationships 
to places whether landscape or 
cityscape, or portray the moral, 
social concerns of this moment and 
address the issues of the day. Their 
work sings in celebration of colour, 
light, form, and the joy of seeing and 
discovering through the process of 
art. HL 

Tendai Gumbo, 
Window and I (above) 

Richard Nyakabawo, 
Early Bicycle (left) 

Amanda McKenzie, 
Distortion (below) 

Anke Bohne, 
What I'm Living For 


Berry Bickle, Other, 

Gallery Delta, November 1994 

This exhibition of work by possibly 
Zimbabwe's most provocative artist raises 
many questions. It is an offer and a 
challenge, an invitation and an argument 

such as My Mother 's Daughter and Dress- 
ing Jennifer, confront the viewer with the 
stark garment worn by prisoners. They are 
about the stripping away of detail in order to 
find the essentials of identity, about 
alienation, grief and pain. These works try 

Tendai Gumbo, 
Ceramic I 



d forthcoming 

that can be experienced through the 
individual's encounter with the art. Berry 
Bickle sees her works on paper as prelimi- 
naries to the three dimensional work, yet it 
is here that those who remember her fine 
early paintings and drawmgs find pleasure. 
Her sensitive use of line and sparingly 
applied colour 
in the Ibo » . . 

series, capture 
places and 
impressions ^ 
with a delicate is 
sureness. t 


•» •? 7 


I I f 



Berry Bickle, 
My Mother's 

Whereas the drawings and paintings such as 
Measure of Wind and Washed Up and 
Found, are poetic, the three dimensional 
works are disturbing. They deal with 
concepts of identity and show the artist's 
willingness to experiment, to explore, to 
search for meanings. They move between 
different matenals and mediums, incorpo- 
rating raw draughtmanship, slashed 
canvases, uneven stitching, wrapped twigs, 
embedded tinted nails, porcelain, wood, 
metals. The palette is deliberately limited, 
with many of the images surrounded by 
predominantly white, raw surfaces to create 
space. The line is again evident in the use 
of slashing, twigs and metals. 

Experiences from Mozambique, Cuba and 
childhood are evoked through use of 
spoons, suitcases, dresses, books. Pieces in 
the suitcase series, such as Mission Box and 
Case for Angels, contain tension and 
humour, continuing earlier investigations 
into the psychological baggage that 
individuals carry. TTie dresses, in works 




to step back from emotion by presenting the 
bare facts. In some cases, the impact of the 
work is diluted by the addition of distracting 

In contrast to much that we see in Zimba- 
bwe, Berry Bickle's work is not readily 

accessible. Many 
4 . , , * viewers are left 

, , puzzled, finding it 
* « hard to understand 

and decode her 
meanings. There 
are many ideas, 
^ \ % ' contradictions, 

details. Perhaps, 

3 g_ /?_ ^ in order to 

V more fully, some 

of these ideas 
need to be 
clarified and worked into a more coherent 
statement. Berry Bickle's work is important 
for our local art scene. It provokes discus- 
sion and cuts into our complacent artistic 
parochialism. BM 

Annual art exhibition, Harare 
Polytechnic, November 1994 

Despite their small staff and minimal 
resources, the Graphic and Fine Art 
Department of the Harare Polytechnic (so 
far Zimbabwe's only art school, is doing a 
good job. This exhibition featured a wide 
variety of work by students from all three 
years and all disciplines. Individual style 
was evident in the third year painting and 
ceramics sections, particularly work by 
Tendai Gumbo, Amanda McKenzie and 
Stephen Rowley. There was some striking 
work amongst the first years, including 
figure drawings by Dylan Lloyd and Amelia 
Marinova. The second year graphic design 
section was outstanding, revealing a 
combination of fresh ideas and professional 
execution. Hopefully the publishers and 
advertising companies were there to take 
note of promising talent. Only the textiles 
were dull. Some experimental work with a 
wider range of materials, exploring the 
potential they have, seems necessary. The 
standard of work from Polytechnic students 
overall has risen markedly and augurs well 
for Zimbabwe's upcoming generation of 
artists. BM 

and events 

What a load of rubbish! will be on show 
at the National Gallery, Harare, at the end of 
March. Proposed by the innovative 
company who keep our paper, cards and T- 
shirts etc. humming with good ideas. Design 
Inc. this exhibition of creative recycling 
may have some surprises in store for us. 

Sylvia Bews-Wright, a Canadian artist 
currently living in Zimbabwe, will be 
showing mainly acrylics in her show, My 
New Found Land, at Gallery Delta during 
March. These works celebrate her feelings 
for the African environment. 

In March/Apnl at Gallery Delta will be an 
exhibition in homage to the Spanish poet 
and playwright, Lorca. The paintings by 
Jesus Carlos Riosalido Gambotti, 
symbolise his feelings about and under- 
standing of Lorca's various works. A 
production of one of the plays and live 
Spanish music are planned for the Gallery 
Delta amphitheatre. 

BAT Workshop Students' Exhibition 

at the National Gallery, Harare, in May, 
provides an opportunity to spot new talent. 
The workshop has produced some of 
Zimbabwe's most promising young artists 
including Luis Meque, Keston Beaton, 
Fasoni Sibanda and Crispen Matekenya. 

If you missed the exhibition at the Alliance 
Francaise in December, work from the 
Zimsculpture (Pachipamwe) Work- 
shop will be shown at the National Gallery 
in April. With their larger space, it is hoped 
that the Gallery will be able to exhibit a 
much wider range of the work produced, if 
not all of it. 

The First Johannesburg Biennale 

opens on the 28th February and runs until 
the 30th of April. Exhibitions and installa- 
tions as well as workshops, community 
events and a conference will take place at 
various venues throughout the city . For 
information on events you can contact the 
staff of the Biennale in Johannesburg. 
Tel: 27- 11-838 6407 Fax; 27- 1 1 -833 5639. 


bardwsd prlntar* 


■• ^->, J'l 

- ff^' 



-^S .V. 

Th<j art m.jga/ine from Gallery Delta- 

Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Gallery magazine: 

The Rio Tinto Foundation 

Colorscan (Pvt) Ltd. ^ 

jmz coBromATiOM or zimbabwx ldoted 




» \ 


June 1995 

2 Artnotes 

Art about Zimbabwe by Pip Curlin 

6 I have a gallery in Africa: the origins of Gallery Delta 

by Derek Huggins 

10 A gift that was hiding: Job Kekana by Pip Curling 

12 Living and working in the mission tradition: 
in memoham Job Kekana by Elizabeth Rankin 

13 Helen Lieros: an interview with Barbara Murray 

19 Letters 

20 Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Cover: Helen Lieros, Cataclysm, 1994, 1 12 x 86cm, mixed media. 

Photo by Dani Deudney 
Left: Zephania Tshuma, No Way To Go, 1986, 75 x 10 x 10cm, 

painted wood 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination & printing by AW. Bardwell & Co. Colour by 
Colourscan (Pvt) Ltd. Paper; Express from Graphtec Ltd, 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, 7^ Gallery Delta, 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue, PO Box UA 373 Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (14)792135. -i 

Art notes 

In his last interview, Job Kekana said, 
"When you travel between people it makes 
your knowledge stronger," and, despite all 
the criticism levelled at the Johannesburg 
Biennale, it did offer opportunities to "travel 
between people". Problems occurred in the 
gaps in communication — the viewer's 
mability to understand the message or the 
artist's inability to convey it successfully? 
Much of the work on show was installation 
with explanatory text accompanying it to 
help the viewer cross those gaps, which in 
some cases were more like chasms. For 
example, the exhibition Volatile Colonies 
included, amongst others, a comer of a room 
filled with cardboard boxes, planks, a 
painting obscured by plastic wrapping 
propped against a wall, paint brushes, glue, 
nails, tins (this a work by the renowned 
Karakov). Other pieces on this show were a 
blank video machine in a room of its own 
with wires on the floor, and, a glob of melted 
plastic on a marble table. 

Capelan's Stepping Out of the White Cube 
{A Little Song for Johannesburg) consisted 
of two rooms, walls hung with seemingly 
random clocks, cotton scarves, scribbled 
messages; on the floor, blocks of wood, 
builders' rubble, brooms, buckets, cement 
bags. While I was looking, a workman came 
in and propped up a step-ladder. When I 
asked. Is it part of the installation? he 
replied, 1 don't know I just borrowed it. So 
what about the buckets and brooms? 
According to Capelan's writing on the wall, 
content in art can arise from: representation, 
verbal statement, medium, material, scale, 
duration, context, art historical reference, 
iconography, formal properties, attitudinal 
gestures and biological response. That about 
covers anything. I left feeling that a long 
esoteric explanation would be needed and 
might still fail to arouse a response, intellec- 
tual or otherwise. 

The French exhibited 'sculptures' by 
Bertrand Lavier: a dirty fndge door; an 
orange plastic traffic cone; a wire magazine 
holder and an aluminium milkcan, each one 
a separate work. When Duchamp exhibited 
his unnal it was a challenge, but that was 50 
years ago! If Lavier had a new message I 
certainly missed it. 

Untitled by Marcos Benjamin from Brazil 
consisted of a wheel of wood, curved and 
stuck together leaning against a wall, and 
three riveted metal double cones, one 
covered in old canvas, one of rusted iron, 
one of aluminium. It was simple, quiet, with 
pleasing shapes, textures and colours, but its 
content, out of context, was unfathomable 

One work that appealed to me was a 
sculpture from Cuba made out of open 
books tied together with sisal to form a 
simple, eloquent boat. TTie books' open 
pages revealed Cuban literature, science, 
geography, poetry, painting, politics, history. 
Here the metaphor worked subtly and 
evocatively to convey the cultural journey 
towards identity. 

Much of the work from Africa was conven- 
tional by compari,son and the Zimbabwean 
curator's choice was sadly static and low 
key. However amongst the best was one 
wonderful surprise from Africa, a work by 
Angolan Antonio Ole entitled Margem de 
Zona Limile: the sound of lapping water and 
rough men's voices talking quietly in 
Portugese; a space constructed of rusted and 
patinated corrugated iron, wooden doors, 
metal gates; in the centre, a metal boat 

Andries Botha, Dromedarls Donderl 
... En Ander Dom Dinge, 1994, 
approx. 4 X 4 X 2m, 
rubber, wattle and metafs 

broken in two; one half filled with bricks 
and a TV set showing a video of water 
flowing beneath a prow; the other half 
filled with official papers; a crow perched 
on each end; a fishing net. The atmosphere 
was extraordinary, invoking a multitude of 
impressions and thoughts. 

One of the few "beautiful' experiences was 
Broom Dream from Reunion; a dark room, 
floor covered with thick sand, a broom 
leaning against the wall just visible in the 
shaft of light from the doorway; enter into 
black; at the far end, in the sand, a pink 
sandstone; a small circle of light from 
above revealing indentations, skull-like, 
soft edges, shadows. It was lovely, 
evocative, resonant. 

The South African work exposed a 
preoccupation with violence: cut-off body 
parts, knives, human hair, menacing kitchen 
implements, blood, thorns and accompany- 
ing titles such as It Won 't Hurt. For me, 
one of the most successful works was 
Dromedaris Bonder! ... En Ander Dom 
Dinge by Andries Botha; a huge sculpture, 
approximately 12ft high and as long, 
encompassing superb craftmanship and 
cohesive conception; a powerful mixture of 
strength, foolishness and aggression. 

Art is an entrance into a world of sensation 
and experience; an opportunity to explore 
and question new possibilities. The 
conceptual First World art made the 
expressive Third World art look naive and 
simplistic, while the Third Wodd art made 
First World art look and and intellectual- 
ised. Critics said the Biennale did not 
analyse and redefine South African identity, 
but each individual needs to make this 
attempt, and the Biennale certainly 
provided a plethora of visually astonishing 
material around which such redefinition 

The Editor 

Marcos Benjamin, Untitled, 1995, 
approx. 3 X 3 X 3m, 
wood, metal and cloth 

Burlmra Murray 

Enezia Nyazorwe, 
A Story About Termites, 
1991, 60 X 90cm, 
PVA on board 

Refusing to succumb to trends in hegemonic Western art, 
Pip Curling introduces her selection of work that will represent 
Zimbabwe in Grahamstown this year 

Art about 


One often hears, from the proponents of avant-gardism, a wail that 
Zimbabwean art is 'safe' and that Zimbabwean artists should strive 
to be 'more experimental'. What is this lemming-like instinct for 
self-destruction? A quick flip through some art magazines, accom- 
panied by a sequence of desperate intellectual gymnastics to come to 
terms with the surfeit of blood and snot, can leave all but the most 
committed post-modernist sickened, fatigued and bewildered. 

The exhibition, entitled 'Art About Zimbabwe', which will represent 
this country at the Standard Bank Festival in Grahamstown from 6 - 
16 July 1995, might be perceived by some as 'safe' and 'nice'. It is 
an exhibition with a clear narrative content, intentionally unfettered 
by contemporary Western aesthetic precepts. It aims to be entertain- 
ing as well as informative. As a whole it speaks about a place, its 
people and its history. Accordingly works have been selected for 
their accessibility to a wider cross-section of the viewing public. 
The exhibition is a celebration of the vision and aspirations of the 
people of Zimbabwe. Images include those of the banal events of 
everyday life as well as humour, tragedy and violence. 

There are forty works on the exhibition, each by a different artist. 
Diversity of subject matter is reflected as is a variety of media. The 
title has a double meaning in that the art tells about the country and it 
comes from different geographical areas. A thread is drawn from the 
representational paintings of the schoolboys under the tutelage of 
Canon Ned Paterson at Cyrene Mission in the 1950s to the continu- 
ing prevalence of figurative watercolour painting in Matabeleland. 

Tapfuma Gutsa, Nehanda's Defiance, 
1981, 84 X 25cm, ebony 

Marvellous Mangena, 
Mtshongoyo Dancers, 
1991, 43 X 79cm, 
oil on board 

Givas Mashiri, Mufakose 
Shopping Centre, 1995, 
60 X 77cm, oil on canvas 
on board 

Phllimon Chipiro, 
African Home, 1986, 
82 X 88cm, oil on canvas 

Early examples of work by the artists of the National Gallery 
Workshop School demonstrate the vigour of that genre which is 
particular to the northern half of the country. Women's art-making is 
represented by their traditional materials of clay and textiles; their 
subjects are those particular to themselves. Innovative use of found 
materials abounds in sculpture made from wire, tins and rags. Works 
such as Zephania Tshuma's No Way To Go, Morris Tendai's The 
Trouble With Money and the Tashinga Group'sViolence Against 
Women testify to pertinent social issues. 

Zimbabwe stone sculptors' work is acknowledged but is situated 
within the broader framework. Artists such as Thomas 
Mukarombwa and Nicholas Mukomberanwa, who have 
achieved international recognition share the stage with 
unknown urban painters and anonymous rural sculptors. 

Marvellous Mangena has achieved notable success with his 
heightened naturalism. Mtshongoyo Dancers marries the past 
with the present as the traditional ceremonial dance is performed 
in a modem football stadium. 

Givas Mashiri is a self-taught painter and sculptor who lives in 
Mufakose, a high density suburb of Harare. He owns and runs a tuck- 
shop which is also his studio. His painting Mufakose Shopping 
Centre is a romanticised view of a place familiar to him. The details 
of the shops, the people, the dustbins and the bushes are all given the 
same uncompromising attention. 

Joram Mariga, 

Uncle Holding Baby, 1957, 

29 X 20cm, green serpentine 

Atalia Nyoni was one of the first tapestry weavers to be trained at 
Cold Comfort Farm outside Harare. TTiis tapestry Beer To Fetch Rain 
At The Matopos tells of the events she remembers as a child when 
beer was brewed and the people danced to call the rain. There is a 
large cave in the Matopos Hills near Bulawayo that is a sacred place 
and home of the Great Spirit. 

Enezia Nyazorwe was a member of the 
Weya Training Centre art project near 
Macheke. Her painting A Story About 
Termites is in the decorative colourful Weya 
style of flat images in a crowded shallow 
space. It tells a fantasy story of villagers 
who try to gather termites to eat but are 
fooled by clever dancing dogs. 

Joram Mariga was one of the earliest stone 
sculptors to be encouraged by Frank 
McEwen, the first director of the National 
Gallery in Harare. His small sculpture 
Uncle Holding Baby shows the uncle 
holding the baby awkwardly upside-down 
behind his back. It is said to be the way to 
drive out the nightmares of a small child. 

Nehanda 's Defiance, an early work by 
Tapfuma Gutsa, concerns Mbuya Nehanda 
who is revered in Zimbabwe as being the 
leader of the first war of liberation. She 
defied the settler authorities, calling on the 
people to rebel. 

No Way To Go (see illustration on Contents page) is by Zephania 
Tshuma who lives in Matabeleland. His work is well known for its 
pithy social comment. 

Atalia Nyoni, Beer to Fetch 
Rain at the Matopos, 1995, 
90 X 80cm, tapestry 

This exhibition is a challenge to Africa to assert its own values. As 
the Dadaists and their followers challenged the nature of 'art', so too 
can their concept of art be challenged by a return to figuration, 
narrative and the traditional ways and means of painting and sculp- 
ture. There is something infinitely precious to be lost by genuflecting 
to the worst gods of contemporary art. We could lose our sense of 
identity and our willingness to communicate with each other in terms 
we can all understand. 

By sp^lalii'equesj 

arid dedicated tokelen Lie! 

ns, founder, creator? 
r Qf Gallery Delta,^ 
origins of oip 
art centres / 

5 hojoe. 

a GallerylrTlirifca 

Recently, on the 17th Apnl 1995, we celebrated 20 years of Gallery 
Delta. We marked the event with an exhibition of paintings, 
graphics, sculpture, textiles and ceramics, with one work each by 
about 35 artists, all of whom we have shown and promoted during 
the two decades, many of whom are today's most prominent 
contemporary artists in Zimbabwe, and who collectively represent a 
much larger body of artists who have come and shown and gone 
over the years. It was seen to be, piece by piece, work by work, a 
fine exhibition and I remarked on the opening night that while in 
every decade there emerge outstanding artists and works of art, we 
would have been hard-pressed to have mounted such a broad, 
diverse and quality show 20 years ago; and the reason we are able to 
do so now is because the creative and artistic pool into which we can 
cast our hook has greater depth, more professionals and professional- 
ism than ever before. This exhibition was, so far as we have been 

able to ascertain from our records, oh^ut tlte, thjr€£. 

huwuLredih exhihilian #/j»^ hoj^e. 
niiUutletL anjd pjy4^wiot£j(L, \ am often 

asked, by the experts and the curious alike who visit and admire the 
gallery and the art it contains: How did this happen? How did you 
begin? Where do you come from? Who are you? Most often 
surprise is expressed at my explanations... if they are able to elicit 

The short reply is to simply say that I married an artist. But really, if 
I am to be honest, there is no simple answer because there is history 
in all men's lives and in this game of chance we play in life there are 
the circumstances in which we find ourselves at a given time; there 
are opportunities or lack of them; there are the politics and the 
personalities; there is history unravelling; there is the art, the artists 
and the work they produce; there is the personal involvement and 
commitment; I can only tell it as a story in my own way: the way I 
have known it to be; and the truth of a long and patient struggle that 
has become the way and the purpose of my life. 

Salisbury. Rhodesia, in 1967, when Helen Lieros and I came here 
from Gwelo. was a different place in a different time, and that 
applies as much to its artistic and cultural state as to everything else. 
It was to us, however, "the big city'. First Street was still open to 
two-way traffic. There still stood the old Palace Theatre with its 

strategic cottpK^ll^d sawdust long bar frequented by extraordi- 
nary characters. OntScond Street, Old Meikles was fronted by twin 
lions, then thi;<;»|ytgMhe door to the Causerie bar. And despite its 
slow pace, there jS'ere the pwlitical tensions which we had to suffer 
daily: UDl, the split from Britain and economic sanctions were in 
their second year; the African nationalist movements were gaining 
strength; incidents of sabotage were becoming more frequent and 
the coming of an armed conflict began to appear inevitable. Against 
this backdrop, however, we were young and anonymous, and in that, 
still hopeful of making our lives in the city and making a contribu- 
tion: Helen Lieros was an artist and teacher, and I, a detective in the 
CID. Helen had been commissioned to paint four large murals in 
tiie Greek Orthodox Cathedral and my fate was to walk the gloomy 
cMTicSors of Police Central. 

Despite the uncertain security situation and our unknown fates that 
politicians at home and around the world were deciding, the sun still 
shone and the flamboyants still bloomed magnificiently. Soon we 
were to become familiar with the art happenings, such as they were 
then, and to get to know the artists and personalities of the time. 
There was the Rhodes (now the National) Gallery, that fine modem 
building which graced old King's Crescent with the palms outside 
and the wonderful gardens behind, and which was the realisation of 
the plans and dreams of a few wise men who included Brian 
O'Connell, Pat Lewis and Athol Evans amongst others, who had 
encouraged Sir Stephen and Lady Courtauld to help create it in the 
late 50s. The first director of the Rhodes Gallery was Frank 
McEwen who had come out of the British Council fold and from 
Paris where he had been acquainted with the greats such as Picasso 
and Matisse. He had founded, in a very short time, the Central 
African Workshop School and 'Shona' sculpture, and championed 
both from under the Rhodes Gallery roof. Henry Thompson, the 
painter, has talked enthusiastically and with nostalgia, over coffee, 
about McEwen and his feats in those early years. But to us, in the 
late 60s, and new to town, the Rhodes Gallery seemed to present an 
impenetrable ivory tower of which the black-bearded, black-attired 
Frank McEwen was king; and the threshold of which one crossed 
only with trepidation. Most often the Courtauld Collection of 
British and European paintings would be found displayed, and the 
Permanent Collection or the National Annual Exhibition... the one 
chance in the year for local artists to have work hung on those walls. 
Most of the 'Shona' sculpture was exported as exhibitions to Europe 
and America. 

McEwen, out of a Western art background, was an authority in a 
cultural backwater; he was an expert among non-experts and he set 
high standards. The Annual Exhibition, during his tenure, was a 
prestigious event; it was then an honour to have work accepted, 
much more so than with the successor Heritage Exhibition of the 
present day. In addition to his promotion of 'Shona' sculpture, 
McEwen encouraged and collected a number of painters for the 
Permanent Collection — offhand they were Robert Paul, Thomas 
Mukarobgwa, Trevor Wood, Kingsley Sambo, Tom Maybank, 
Charles Femandes, Robert Hunter-Craig, Tony Wales-Smith, Peter 
Birch, Marshall Baron (notably all males) and perhaps included 
Josephine O'Farrell and Anne Lowenstein, who were all older 
generation and painters of merit. McEwen showed work by some of 
these painters at the ICA Gallery in London early in the 60s, but by 
the end of the decade there seemed no way through for them... the 
West was clearly only interested in the 'Shona' sculpture. Who 
could be expected to support paintings either by colonial settler 
whites from a sanctioned country in Africa or by blacks who were 
painting in a contemporary rather than an ethnic manner, no matter 
how good they might be? (This attitude still persists today.) And so 
by the end of the 60s, many painters were disillusioned and discour- 
aged. Peter Birch opened an art school. Maybank drifted to 
Johannesburg and took up brick-laying. Tony Wales-Smith concen- 
trated on his architecture. Hunter-Craig emigrated to Majorca and, 
later, Trevor Wood to England. Charles Femandes dropped out of 
the scene. Thomas Mukarobgwa abandoned his painting for the 
more popular stone sculpture. The only 60s painters of merit to 
gamely persist in their artistic quests were Marshall Baron until his 
untimely demise in 1974, Kingsley Sambo always struggling 
financially and getting drunk in desperation until his sudden death in 
the late 70s — shot, I heard, by guerrillas — and Robert Paul until 
his death in 1980. Perhaps not so strangely, these are the three 
painters of the 60s whose work is today most cherished and stands 
the test of time. 

But I have digressed, and to return to the state of the art: there was 
the Rhodes Gallery, the apex, but there was little art organisational 
structure beneath the top of this pyramid. There were small volun- 
tary art organisations and societies but there were no art schools or 
other exhibition galleries to talk about. McEwen had power and he 
exercised his power — his love and joy was the 'Shona' sculpture 
and he seemed to delight in chastising amateur white painters, 
justifiably sometimes, deriding them for their jacaranda and msasa 
landscapes. There was the odd cause for glee amongst this amateur 
element when, for example, McEwen raved about an abstract 
painting and then the artist (I think it was Neil Park), disclosed to the 
press that he had turned the canvas on a potter's wheel and poured 
the paint on — then McEwen and modem art were dended by the 
conservative whites. 

In the early 70s, the country headed into the guerrilla war, known 
either as an anti-terrorist campaign or the War of Liberation, 
depending what colour or what side one was on or forced to be on... 
But of course, life went on and so did an. The black sculptors under 
the watchful eye of Frank McEwen at Vukutu and the Rhodes 
Gallery were still busy; so too were those at Tengenenge where the 
erst-while tobacco farmer, Tom Blomefield, had established a 
sculpture community in 1965, which McEwen, probably much to his 
chagrin, could not control absolutely. But for the painters, black and 
white, there was no protective umbrella. McEwen offered only the 
Annual. The city was without alternative exhibition spaces. Oh, 
there was in existence then the Cape Galleries selling jacaranda and 
msasa landscapes. Richard Rennie opened a framing concern and 
displayed popular paintings too. Roy Guthne opened a small gallery 
which he called African Art Promotions, which was managed by the 
Chilean Arturo Lorrondo who had a good eye, and collected and 
exhibited works by Kingsley Sambo, and mostly sculpture by 
Nicholas Mukomberanwa, the Mteki brothers, Joseph Ndandarika 
and a few others. Tom Blomefield took a room at Meikles Hotel for 
his Tengenenge sculpture and later moved to a house in Park Street 
opposite African Art Promotions. But none of these places were 

spaces suitable or available for painting exhibitions of any size. So 
bad was this lack of exhibition space that Helen Lieros, in 1968, 
went to The Antique Shop in a very old building at the comer of 
Third Street and Baker Avenue to hang her first exhibition in the 
city; and the next time, in 1 97 1 , again to The Antique Shop which 
had moved to Africa House in Stanley Avenue; the only other 
altemative was the top floor of the general store, HM Barbour's, 
which she used on another occasion in the early 70s. Other painters 
likewise sought out other temporary spaces. There was no hope of 
entry to the Rhodes Gallery. In about 1972, Eden Simon, a farmer, 
made a brave effort, assisted by Leslie McKenzie and Liza 
Bakewell, and opened a three or four roomed space called Tara Arts 
on the first fioor of Berkely Buildings, where Joseph Muli, the 
Kenyan carver and Peter Gladman, the landscape painter shared a 
studio. It was a nice space. This solved the problem for a year or 
two but unfortunately the venture was beset with financial problems; 
there were no backers and it closed quietly. It was back to the 
begining and the country was at war. 

It seemed apparent to the younger unrecognised artists including 
painters and sculptors who were not 'Shona' sculptors, that it was a 
dead end. And let me stress that most of the artists who were being 
ignored were the whites who were actually in the majority as 
painters, most of the blacks having taken exclusively to sculpture; 
and this in a country on which criticism was poured for inhibiting the 
development of black art. There was a great deal of frustration 
caused by the lack of interest shown by McEwen, the Rhodes 
Gallery and the press. But there was no antagonism amongst the 
painters and the sculptors, black and white, who got along well, with 
mutual admiration for each other because there was no personal 
competition — they were artistic parallels — but the painters needed 
more exposure than they were getting. 

At the end of 1972, Helen Lieros and I were instmmental in 
organising a group which became known as 'Circle". The founder 
members comprised, as 
far as I can recall, 
Arthur Azevedo, 
Babette Fitzgerald, 
Pauline Battigelli, 
Lesley Honeyman, 
Anne Lindsell-Stewart, 
Trevor Wood, Manan 
Arnold, Janine 
Mackenzie, Mercia 
Desmond, Helen Lieros 
and myself Later Joe 
Muli. Bemard 
Takawira, Henry 
Thompson and a few 
others were to join. 
The intent was to create 
a voice to challenge the 
state of the art of the 
country, and the press. 
Most often we met at 

our flat in Burlington House in Fife Avenue where we had some say 
amongst ourselves, let off steam and pondered what to do and how 
to make a promotion. It was all very amateur but there was a lot of 
energy and our meetings were enjoyable. In early 1974 , when the 
country was in the gnp of sanctions and armed conflict. Circle was 
so bold, under the chairmanship of Ian Honeyman, as to organise a 
major exhibition of its members' work at an exhibition hall at the 
Salisbury Showgrounds. This event prompted sharp criticism from 
Peter Birch, a painter of the 60s and an ex-boxer, who put on his 
gloves again and took Circle to task, in the pages of the Sunday 
Mail, for their presumptiousness. Not withstanding this however, or 
perhaps because of it — any publicity can be useful — the exhibi- 
tion, surprisingly, drew a lot of people, some 5000, and it was 
successful. It would be interesting to look at that work again, if it 

Artists meeting at 
Gallery Delta c. 1975 


been » i 

were possible, 20 years later... it may not have beeil ^good*^ I 
remember... but it was a start. Sylvia Beck, administrator of the 
Rhodes Gallery, came to look and purchased work tor the Perma 
Collection. We had made a small impact and to some degree 
justified our contention that there was ART being made other than 
amateur painting and 'Shona' sculpture. But what else could be 
done? One isolated exhibition was not going to change the world. 
What more was there to do? 

/•■, A 


I have tried in the foregoing to set the art sceffe as it was then, as it 
seemed to me. And now something about myself, if I am to be 
absolutely honest, and which 1 seek to be despite all. Concurrent 
with the period I have been endeavouring to describe, and perhaps 
symptomatic of the immensely difficult times — the war, sanctions, 
the politics, which I felt acutely — I underwent deep personal 
unhappiness in my own state of being, with who I was in all my 
comple\ities and inhibitions, about my work and my life, its seeming 
purposelessness, and I knew endless anxiety and despair. 1 consid- 
ered ending it all. Let me try to explain. When 1 married an artist 1 
discovered how immensely absorbing the artistic quest is and an 
empathy with the artists and their difficulties grew gently and 
stcadilyover the years Good God, I was married to one whose 
creative ability, will and dedication I believed in. Less than that 
would have meant a parting of the ways. In my work, 1 was in 
despair at encountering constantly what 1 saw and felt to be the 
destructive side of life... people in trouble, in difficulties; the 
complainants and the accused, black and white; lives in jeopardy or 
broken... the policeman's lot. I was with the Homicide Squad and in 
addition to the daily round in the city, there were the patrols to the 
bush where one carried one's rifle and played at war. Consequently, 
I envied the artists their creativity and work which was to me, in the 
scale of vocations, somewhere near the top if still beneath the 
spiritual one. Mine seemed to be much further down the scale. But 
one carried on, keeping up the front, while the inner man was in 
dilemma and despair. TTiere was nobody to turn to. I resisted for a 
long time the call of a small intuitive voice but in the end, in late 
1974, after years of searching and summoning courage, humbled 
myself and called on God to forgive me, to help me and guide me. 
My cry was heard and I discovered the existence of God. My burden 
was lifted and discovering hope and faith I walked in a new, open 
and perceptive way and prepared for the promptings and the 
opportunity to change my life. When a man has called upon God for 
help and he has been helped that man can no longer deny God. And 
that is why 1 write these words. 

There were two options that 1 had had in mind for a long time: one 
was to write — a hankering from the early 20s when I knew we were 
all living day to day history in a watershed time and all that was 
needed was to write it down — or alternatively to somehow involve 

myself in the arts OT i^ afieit CL qXtH^Mrif And 

therein lies the story. 

And so it was, one day in November 1974, walking along Manica 
Road, on an impulse I went along the passage of Strachan's Build- 
ings to the courtyard within. It was the first time that I had been 
there and I instantly liked its charm and quaintness. I looked over a 
stable door and spoke to a person inside who was packing his 
belongings. He said in response to my enquiry that the rooms were 

available for rent lOlthlil ttJt fliUir OT tu%a 

5 had JLeeuretL the ipuee, and i returned to 

my office and tendered my resignation that afternoon. I was to leave 
my job within two months and to open a gallery soon thereafter. 
Outwardly, it was as easy as that, but, having obtained the space and 
made the decision to abandon security, the doubts were soon to come 
crowding in like a swarm of flies around my head. How could a tiny 
gallery that was to promote contemporary painting in the down-town 
streets of Salisbury in the middle of a war make sufficient income to 

pay its way let alone sustain a family? But the die was cast, the 
decision made and, with a small gratuity to use as capital, or MjM- 

cumul fW€ftari*ig. Ifie ipuee <fi^ 
iLie OJL a Qollerg., 

It was an exciting time but a scary one also. The first artist I ever 
approached and asked to show with me, other than my wife, was 
Arthur Azevedo, a close and dear friend to this day and who still 
shows with us. Things were changing rapidly and I learned to do 
things intuitively a|id fearlessly — if it feels right, do it. I applied 
for a job because tneeded one to sustain the gallery before I ever 
opened it such wathe financial prognosis for a private gallery in 
those times... but^y reckoning was to do it because I needed 
change. And in doing so, to make an early start, to be operational 
and experienced ffr political change when it came, because after all, 
despite fears to th4 contrary, it might be all right in the end and we 
whites might be pirmitted and want to stay. Surprisingly I got the 
post I applied for as Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts 

Foundation of Rhodesia. Si^ IIM. G^l£JfieJtL 

^jolUvii ^elicL en the 1 7 tit 

ef- CytfLI'4-L / V 73 and I commenced employment with 

the Arts Foundation on the 1st of May.... I did not have one job in the 
arts, but two! Both needed to be built up and developed. I ran the 
Foundation by day and looked to the gallery by night and weekends. 
And so it went on until I left the Foundation in 1988 to make way for 
a new director and resorted to the gallery full-time in an effort to 
make it pay a modest wage. 

In my schemings for a gallery, I deliberated 
long for a suitable name and I sought, with 
my philhelene affinities, the Greek connec- 
tion rather than the African, and for some- 
thing that was geometric for the logo. Thus 
the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet — 
thelta — appealed. The letter is formed by a 
triangle which is a perfect shape, three parts 


forming one, like the Trinity. 

■ the river 

running through it and pouring outwards with connotations of 
movement and fertility — seemed appropriate also. 

So we had a gallery at last, such as it was to begin with, comprising 
three small interleading rooms each measuring no more than 13x13 
feet, in which we could mount an exhibition of 20 to 30 paintings 
and a few sculptures. The rooms were situated along one side of the 
inner courtyard which somebody had nostalgically dubbed Little 
Chelsea, probably because of the English bay window, with concen- 
tric blown circles in the glass, which set it off It was a good place to 
keep people captive for an hour or two and they were forced, by its 
small size, to be communicative. 

After a year or two, the four rooms on 'The Other Side' became 
available. Taking them over doubled our space and gave us more 
control of the courtyard. And we had a couple of rooms for storage 
on the first fioor which was accessible by stairs and the cat-walk 
balcony. T^c other rooms around the balcony were occupied by 
small businesses — siik-screeners, tailors and cobblers — who 
collectively set up a constant din of voices, music, banging and 
hammering; the tread and pedal of the Singer sewing machines 
caused so much vibration through our ceilings that our lamps always 
blew before their scheduled life-times. And a multitude of scraps — 
paper and flock — would find its way and gather on the shanty tin 

roof, in the gutters and down to the courtyard. But it was active and 
colourful and it became the home of the gallery for 16 years. 

We opened with a show of graphics. Amongst the works were some 
by Philippe Grosclaude and Therese Houyoux of Geneva and it is 
poignant for us that the latter will visit Zimbabwe for the first time in 
July this year to conduct a one-person show. Such is the strength of 
artists' friendships. But why graphics involving foreign artis^ToJ^**" 
the first show? Simply, we had a collection which was different and 
had standard, and because we wanted to promote the graphic as a 
legitimate artistic method... which is indicative of how backward we 
were 20 years ago, for while there were engravings by Rembrandt in 
the Rhodes Gallery, the buying public which comprised a tiny 
percentage of the white population, did not know the graphic nor its 
processes, imagining they were off the photo-litho press at the 
nearest commercial printers. And in our first year of operations we 
persisted with several graphic exhibitions, including a collection of 
contemporary Japanese graphics, to encourage artists at home to 
examine and practise these methods. 

Having only a tiny space in an obscure, hidden venue, and intending 
to promote the best of contemporary art, there was no question of 
stocking a shop with a few souvenirs and curios and expecting ' 
visitors to flock in. There was a need to make Gallery Delta as 
vibrant and varied as possible... to get known quickly and to build an 

interest Q/t£/i in tliE firil tfeor^ tfy^WL 

nuumted. 12 eseluMiianjif loliieli 
r€dli£jy Lei tlie pxiUem 4j04^ tlie, 

fUtlW^ — a show every three or four weeks throughout the 

year, about 15 on average, but the number has been known to rise to 
as many as 20 events. 

I can well remember the first exhibition, where specific works hung 
and who bought them. Fried Lutz and the late George Seirlis who 
became ardent supporters and collectors were there that night. I was 
very nervous and felt guilty that I had prevailed on all our friends 
and acquaintances to be there and imagined that they must have 
come out of sympathy. This was a feeling I had for a long time but 
which gradually turned into an acceptance that people really were 
interested and enjoyed attending to look at and collect art, and for 
the pleasure of meeting people. Our critics and sceptics said we 
were mad and would not last for six months. And so many times 
they were very neariy right! We were starting at the least poptifaL 
end of the market, and at, as private galleries go, a nominal commil* 
sion. We set the figure of 25% to be as kind to the artists as possible, 
but which is about half of that charged in Europe and America and 
which we have stubbornly maintained despite the fact that we have 
never been subsidised like the Rhodes Gallery which also charges 
the same commission. 

The day to day minding of the gallery was taken over by Helen's 
father, Paul Apostolos Lieros, whose oft response to the query May 
we come in and look? was. If you have your cheque book with you. 
He was to help us until 1980 when at age 80 he died, almost a year 
to the day after being mugged along the passage of Strachan's 
Buildings on a Saturday afternoon. In the determined struggle he 
had overexerted his heart, and so we lost one of our own, or the 
gallery claimed one. 

Gallery Delta had been established in an endeavour to provide a 
venue for the painters and the graphic, textile and ceramic artists, 
and those sculptors who were doing other than "Shona" sculpture. 
And having made those decisions it was mainly white artists that we 
showed because they were the painters and artists in other mediums. 

The black artists almost to a man had become carvers and sculptors 
of stone. It was in the stone that money and fame promised to be 
and was; and it was also a more readily available and less technical 
medium on which to work and which did not demand formal art 
training for which there were few facilities. And I think in retrospect 
that the success of the stone inhibited the development of painting by 
blacks, and for about thirty years. _^^ 

When we came t&Sonsider who was left among the black painters of 
the 60s Siere wet^^wpf any merit. Thomas Mukarobgwa was into 
stone. Kangsley Saintio was still about and showing at African Art 
Promotions. Charles Femandcs 1 managed to find in the ghetto at 
Mbare w^ere the inside of his tiny home was painted with murals 
and I managed to salvage an old canvas but of the artistic creativity 
of Charles there seemed little lo resuscitate Canon Ned Patterson of 
Cyrene of the 40s and 50s and subsequently^yarutsetso at Mbare, 
had fostered talent but by 1974, of those prodigies, there was no 
trace. The Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre at Bulawayo was stuck in 
the tradition of the eariy 60s with slick amateur Western type 
representational renderings of the life in the townships and country. 
In the first year we showed wood carvings by Joseph Muli and 
paintings by John HIatywayo but inevitably our emphasis was with 
paintings by whites. We watched for signs of resurgence amongst 
the blacks and tried to encourage where we were able. Apart from 
some excursions here and there, it was slow to come... 

Editor's note: The sequel to this article describing developments at 
Gallery Delta and in the local art scene over the 20 years will be 
published in a forthcoming issue of Gallery. 


(above) Job Kekana in his studio at St Faith's 
Mission, Rusape, in January 1995 


(opposite) Job Kekana, Young Girl, 1990, wood 

Why is it that we do not appreciate what we have until we have lost it? 

Job Kekana died on 10 March 1995. 

Here, Pip Curling shares her last meeting with him 

A gift that was hiding: Job Kokdna 

Afromosia, Job Kekana's favourite wood, is rather like he was; fine 
grained, true and warm hearted. I last saw Job in early January on a 
bleak overcast day in his small studio at St Faith's Mission near 
Rusape. The little room was crowded with drawings, books and the 
tools of his craft. A wheelchair stood at the door On the shelf 
behind the wheelchair was Job's diploma from the John Cass School 
of Art in England. Next to the diploma, two photographs, one of the 
young Job with Sr Pauline, the Anglican nun who first recognised 
his talent, and the other taken at the National Gallery some time in 
the 60s. In this photograph, a Rodin sculpture is on a phnth and a 
drawing done by Job of the sculpture is displayed on an easel. Job is 
in the company of other sculptors of the time. I recognised Sam 
Songo and Henry Munyaradzi. 

As he reminisced about his life and work. Job kept coming 
back to his close and ambiguous association with Sr 
Pauline. He met her at the mission where she taught 
outside Pietersburg in the Transvaal. Although not an 
artist herself, Sr Pauline was the daughter of a 
carpenter and had a knowledge and appreciation of 
fine wood. She gave Job the materials and tools he 
needed and she guided his work. Job recalled that: 
"Art in South Africa at that time was a white man 's 
job. Africans must make sticks for stirring pots." 

It was because of this. Job claimed, that Sr Pauline 
exhibited his sculpture under her name as her own work 
When the work sold she gave Job "... afrw pennies as 
a reward... But, she was taking something from me 
while she was giving me something. She gave me a 
gift that was hiding in myself... In life the ones 
who are clever live on those who are stupid." 

In 1944 Sr Pauline was transferred to St Faith's 
Mission. She arranged for Job to follow her At that 
time black South Africans were not eligible for passports 
so Job came to Rhodesia on a travel document with a permit to work 
only at St Faith's. Nine years later, disgruntled with the feeling that 
Sr Pauline was exploiting him. Job left St Faith's to work independ- 
ently in Rusape. He quickly fell foul of the immigration officials 
and had to return to the mission or face deportation. Then came a 
commission to carve the mace for the Rhodesian parliament and 
after that Job was awarded citizenship. "The first thing I did was get 
a passport... I went to England and tried for a job sweeping floors 
in art schools... I went to see how people carved, how long it took 
others to make a carving. You need to measure yourself by other 

John Cass School gave Job a place as a full-time student. After 
completing a three year diploma he was offered a teaching post at 
the school, but Job chose to return to live and work at St Faith's. He 
did, however, visit Italy where he marvelled at Michelangelo's 
David. He said; "When you travel between people it makes your 
knowledge stronger." 

Among his many commissions. Job remembered only a few. He 
fondly recalled a small bust of a mother and child bought by Ben 
Gingell and given to the people of lona, Scotland, in memory of 
southern African soldiers who fought in the Second World War His 
commitment to art overrode his own religious and political beliefs. 
He carved the coat of arms for the post-UDI Rhodesian government 
and he made religious works for the Catholic as well as the Anglican 
church. Job recalled that the priest at Monte Casino Catholic 
Mission, Macheke, "... had everything from Rome removed and 
asked me to carve an African crucifi.x and a statue of the Virgin 
Mary. During the war the boys broke everything and they took 
Mary. After the war was over I made more." 

Job was particularly proud of some of his most recent work: the two 
busts of Nelson Mandela and the staff he carved for Archbishop 
Desmond Tutu. The latter was made in three parts from 
orange wood and jointed with copper It symbolises the 
Holy Trinity. "Everything you make must mean 

Harare residents can see a fine example of Job's work at 
the Anglican Cathedral. His is the large crucifix 
suspended over the altar Disappointed that his work 
had never been acknowledged by the art community in 
his adopted country. Job donated two works to the 
National Gallery. One is titled Sorcerer and the other. 

Abstract. I asked Job how he felt about abstraction. He 
replied; "Abstract art, I like it but it is afiinny thing just to 

please some imagining of the mind. Art should be for 
teaching the children and reminding them of old 


■■■ ■ ■■■\ 

I wondered why he had never gone back to South 
Africa. He said; "It is better for me to stay here. I 
get a lot of work for South Africa because there they 
know you better when you are on the edge." 

I left Job working on two small standing naked female figures. One 
a pregnant woman and the other a mother breast-feeding her baby. 
These were commissioned by a British gynaecologist whose father 
had once been a teacher at St Faith's. 

The church at St Faith's is one of the oldest in the country. Its 
crumbling red brick Romanesque structure nestles behind huge gum 
trees as old as itself The interior is a bitter disappointment. A piece 
of monstrously ugly darkwood Victorian furniture behind the altar 
houses reproductions of sentimental nineteenth century holy scenes. 
The nave is dominated by a cement cast of what might be St George. 
A fishmoth-nibbled Victorian print hangs crookedly beside the north 
door Dusty stations of the cross, carved by some of Job's pupils, 
lean drunkenly out of sight on the tops of aisle pillars. Nowhere is 
there evidence that, for fifty years, there lived and worked at this 
mission one of the finest sculptors of religious art in southern Africa. 



Elizabeth Rankin, professor of art history 

at Wits University who has done extensive research 

on wood sculptors of southern Africa, 

writes about his work 

Living and working in the mission tradition: 

in memoriam Job Kekana 

At mission schools in South Africa it was customary to offer 
woodwork as practical training for boys alongside their school 
lessons. But from the 1920s at the Grace Dieu Anglican Mission 
near Pietersburg, this took on a special significance. Through the 
iniative of Fr Edward Paterson and the dedication of the teacher in 
charge of the workshop, Sr Pauline CR, the carpentry school also 
encouraged carving skills. This school was to foster the talents of 
Job Kekana, bom near Potgietersrus in 1916, whose time there, from 
1933 to 1939, shaped the direction of his career and his carving — 
and was still evident in his work at the time of his death. 

The focus of the carving school was on craft and 
manual skills, chiefly relief carving applied to 
church furniture made in the carpentry shop. 
Students were not expected to develop their own 
designs, as members of the order were considered 
better fitted to conceive religious imagery 

When around 1938 Sr Pauline was called to the 
mother house in Grahamstown and later to St Faith's 
in Rusape, Rhodesia, Kekana stayed on for a while at 
Grace Dieu to assist with training but then decided 
to try his fortune in Johannesburg. Job reserva- 
tion at the time restricted his opportunities 
in carving for furniture manufacture and, 
without the resources of the mission, he 
had difficulty marketing his work. So in 
1944, he took up Sr Pauline's suggestion 
that he join her at St Faith's. Kekana 
undertook important commissions during 
the 1940s including the panels for the 
pulpit in St Mary's Cathedral, Johannes- 
burg. Such works continued to draw on 
established church traditions, so that they 
are not recognisable as African carvings 
in style or subject matter. When asked 
about this, Kekana explained that he 
understood Christ as a white person histori 
cally and so depicted him thus — unless specifically asked to do 
otherwise. For example, he gave African features to his Christ for St 
Mary and All Saints in Harare in 1986 at the request of the Ameri- 
can priest who commissioned the crucifix. But often Kekana 
interpreted lesser religious figures in a more personal way, in terms 
of his own experience. Although dressed in dignified Gothic robes, 
his Madonnas frequently have tender African features, as do the 
babies they bear. A number of these found their way into British 
church collections after Kekana's successful exhibitions during his 
stay in England in the 1960s. 

When he travelled overseas he was able to see important works by 
sculptors like Rodin and Michelangelo, and particulariy admired the 
English carver, Grinling Gibbons. But for Kekana his most 
important experience abroad was the opportunity to attend classes at 
] 2 the John Cass College in London, particularly to draw and model 

from life. Although Kekana chose to return to Africa in 1964 to set 
up a school for carvers in Rusape, his English experiences contin- 
ued to inform his teaching and his work. 

Life drawing was an important part of classes at his school, and his 
own carving benefited from these studies. For example, his half- 
length figure of David from the Old Testament was modelled on one 
of his own students, 14 year old David Tsungu. The head has a 
personal quality and a more convincing naturalism than earlier 
carvings, both in underiying structure and in the nuances of 
expression. David Saviour is a moving psychological study, 
echoing in his African features the same sense of appre- 
hension yet steadfast purpose that informed 
Michelangelo's monumental image of the young hero. 
Kekana included the hands holding the sling and stone 
(rather small in scale, probably because of the limitations 
of the block of wood) to show the viewer that Goliath has 
not yet been slain. David's eyes, their focus defined by a 
catchlight left against the dark, carved-out pupils, gaze 
beyond us at his adversary. The sense of life that invests 
the image is echoed in the carving style, animated by the 
marks of the chisel which create a subtle texture, interacting 
with the light on the surface. 

Kekana's work remained consistent in style and 
quality to the end of his long career, both in 
religious images and an increasing number of 
secular works. Occasionally he carved portraits, 
which display his powers of observation and 
able characterisation. Many of Kekana's carved 
heads represented "African types' which, in the 
context of the Afncan art market, may sound 
ominously like the ubiquitous cliched images 
made for the tourist trade. However, Kekana 
avoided stereotypes and these carvings at their 
best are not only very fine technically, but 
invested with sensitive individuality, like the 
beauty and gentle charm of Young Girl, carved 
in 1990. 

The value of Kekana's carvings has been overiooked because they 
displayed neither the lively, sometimes crude, stylisation of 
representation that is admired in contemporary rural art. nor the 
sophisticated experimentation of urban modernism. But his work 
should surely be evaluated in terms of the religious tradition within 
which he was working, and for which the accessibility of his art is 
so well suited. The sustained high quality of Kekana's carving and 
the integrity of his subject mailer deserve a level of recognition that 
they have yet to receive either in his adoptive country or the country 
of his birth. 

(above) Job Kekana, 
David Saviour, 
c. 1964, afromosia 

Helen Lieros, He/en's Horse (detail), 
1994, 86 X 61cm, ink and collage on paper 


Born in Zimbabwe 
of Greek parents, Helen 
Lieros with her outspoken, 
effervescent personality is 
one of the most influential 
artists working in Zimbabwe. 
In this interview with 
Barbara Murray, she talks 
about her life and work 

BIW: You have three major influences in your life, the Greek, the 
African and the Swiss. How are they intermeshed in you and 
expressed in your work? 

HL: I think basically the main emphasis in my life is to be able to 
find out who I am and what I am about. Geneva was really about 
exploration, to find out what art was. Because from Gweru, what 
was art? It was pretty little landscapes and so on, that was really 
suffocating as a little girl. So to go to Switzerland and to discover 
Braque, to meet him at his last exhibition, to realise what a weird 
guy this was. Why was he sticking things on? Being there, I was 
forced to paint like a Swiss. Like I put a red, I'll never forget, and 
the professor would make me cross-hatch grey over it to kill the red. 
And I would try to say, but sir in my country we've got red. We've 
got red trees, red earth. Or we've got a very strong blue. Why do I 
have to put a grey over this deep blue? And again you had to sort of 
go by the wayside because you knew that you had to work to get a 
good mark to get through so you could go on to the second year. I 
look back on my studies and I feel good in that I learned the roots, 
the basic roots, of drawing etc. which I have used right throughout 
my whole hfe but I had no identity. I was like another moo cow with 
a big stamp on it when I finished. But it was an exploration. 

BM: And the Greek influence? You grew up in a very Greek 
household, speaking Greek... 

HL: Yes. it was the first language that I learnt. And when I was 
studying in Switzerland, my parents never had money for me to be 
able to come home for my holidays so I went to Greece which gave 
me the opportunity to discover my roots. My whole being was on 
the old ancient Greece, the civilisation and all the magnificent art, 
the Cycladic, the Byzantine. 

BM: And then you came back to Africa? 

HL: Yes. then I came home and all of a sudden I realised that I came 
from a most beautiful country, that I had never really seen. Although 
I think it was inside me all the time... wanting to use the brighter 
colours... and I battled for 10 years trying to find who, what 1 am, to 
identify with the colour and spirit of Africa. When I was in Greece I 
had sketched the Greek peasants, the women, with their dooks, 
always dressed in black. And when I came home I saw the African 
peasants, the tsoro players, the newspaper sellers. The creative 
element and the myth came in. The texture, the land, the people, 
everything played a very important part in my life. Then the war 


came, the sanctions, no materials, and for me I think that '74 was the 
time when I really started creating... as late as that... when I explored 
and 1 improvised and I got hooked on trying to make materials and 
work with the materials that I was alien to. 

BM: When you set out to do a work, do you have a subject in mind, 
some event, some emotion? 

HL: I don't think I know consciously. I think it is very much a 
subconscious process. 

BM: Is it inspiration? 

HL: 1 don't believe in inspiration. 1 think inspiration, if you want to 
use that word, only comes when you have worked and worked and 
worked. It is the accumulation of the work and the ideas, the 
problems that you have been facing. You are in search of that thing 
which occupies you. There are things you feel you've got to get out. 
And there's times when your mind is blank and then this is when you 
start exploring again. I find maybe my colours are becoming boring 
and I get all my bits and piecej and I feel that I need to find some- 
thing else to work. It's a preliminary search into something new, 
something else... whatever is coming. I think that my biggest fear in 
my life is to be repetitive. I would rather stop painting entirely 
because I feel that you have to explore. I remember an old professor 
of mine saying if you have a standstill period rather go one step 
backward so that you can go forward. My step backward is to go 
back to drawing, back to just sketching and rethinking. I enjoy 
working with drawings. I find it's like people who sit down and 
write diaries. For me, my diary is all those sketches that I do. 
There's no words. It's the images that portray what I feel. 

BM: And you sketch what's around you? 

HL: No, it's what comes from my heart, my mind, and my soul. 
Things that disturb me; things that make me happy. 

BM: So you don't look for outside subjects like nature or land- 

HL: They all stand in my mind but very rarely do I work from 
nature. I might just do a contour line that has everything that I want. 
The organic, the texture is very strong in what I look at. I love the 
positive / negative shapes and the textural qualities. 

BM: The texture has always been very strong m your work, even in 
your graphics... the acid eating, then the layers of paint, papers, the 
collage... when did you start doing collage? 

HL: '74 / '75 was my collage. It stemmed from all the work which 
was unsuccessful which I kept in boxes. I started using my own 
pieces within a painting. Also at that time, it makes me laugh now 
when I think of it, our paper was in very very small sizes and I 
wanted to work large so therefore I went and stuck two pieces of 
paper together and then added collage so that it looked like a larger 
piece of work. But then I have a psychological hatred, again very 
personal, of using other people's images in my painting, like 
magazines or photographs, unless I have taken the photograph, 
unless I have gone through the process. It has always got to be part 
of me. I don't like takmg from anybody else. Sometimes I'm biased 
if you want, but I feel it's not ethical and I thmk this is what is 
happening in art. This ethical part is being destroyed. There's no 
ethics in a lot of things that are happening today. 

BM: A lot of people take pieces from around their environment and 
put it together and say this is a work of art. 

HL: Yes, but we can take Schwitters for example. I just love his 
work. Every little piece was his trip by bus, taxi or whatever. And 
] 4 ihe way he put it together. So again that was like a personal 

collection. And people may have a mania of collecting toothbrushes, 
so I mean, what a wonderful painting you can make of it — a piece 
of art from toothbrushes because it's part of you. Also there have 
been artists that have used other artists' work. Like Picasso, who 
literally copied Manet's Dejeuner sur I'herbe , but what came out of 
that? What did Picasso do from that? It was something totally 
different. He'd used the composition, that I think is wonderful 
because at the same time he was paying tribute to a master. That I 
understand. But I'm saying I feel there is a deadline to anything you 
do. And my deadline is to use personal, preferably my own, pieces 
for collage. 

BM: You mention Picasso going back and looking at Manet. Have 
there been any artists that have made a very strong impression on 
you, that have been influencial, used as a jumping off point? 

HL: One person who had a great influence over me in my youth was 
Kokoschka. I loved Kokoschka's feeling in his work and somehow I 
think I related him to Africa, though it had nothing to do with Africa. 
Another artist who had a very strong infiuence on my work when I 
first came back home was Daumier; the political thiiigs, the black 
and white, the people, and again maybe at that time I was very 
attached to the peasants, the people, and the society and the political 
possibilities. Daumier and Kokoschka were at that time the strong- 
est influences in my work. 

BM: It is mteresting that you chose Kokoschka because his work 
has a strong sense of inner turmoil, and to me, much of your work is 
expressive of storms, violence, turmoil. 

HL: Maybe that's the Greek part of me coming out. Probably the 
drama. I feel that the biggest thing in my life is to try and be an 
individual and try and identify who I really am. It is a battle in my 
life, in my work, this identity. Am I Greek? Am I African? And yet 
there is a link in the superstitions of the Greek and of the African. 
The relationship is very similar in many, many ways. And to be 
accepted as a Greek or as a white African... I feel this has been 
really my biggest fight. I go to Greece and I enjoy it but I don't 
think I'm part of that. And in Switzerland... I find a peace there. I 
find a tranquil quality that I've always enjoyed immensely, and 
maybe recapturing my youth. But because I'm very sort of aggres- 
sive or... I always feel I need the opposite to calm the situation and 
give it a good balance. But I think my work is based on this fight 
between who and what I am. 

BM: Your work is not concerned with material reality, is it rather an 
imaginative psychological reconstruction ? 

HL: Possibly, yes. Human forms have always been a prominent 
feature in my work, whether symbolic or figurative, losing their 
everyday appearance and individuality and assuming a degree of 
anonymity and stylisation of shape. Their origins come from my 
love of the Byzantine stylisation and spirituality and even further 
back and beyond, the Cycladic, and linking forward to the African 
stylisation. The simplicity of form. I have analysed the anatomy, 
the character, and then it's a breakaway to minimalise and just to use 
the bare essentials of what is the human figure, what he represents. 
Symbolism. I think the symbolic quality has a large part in my 
work,., the symbolism of what the human being is or what he 
represents, and what the painting is about. 

BM: What have been the major themes in your work? 

HL: I think ii was the earth, Ihe discovery of Africa, the stratas, the 
land lormalion was very strong. Mysticism, ritual, the strong 
symbolic force of form and shape, always with a human element, 
occur again and again. Man taking over in the space and becoming 
the patriarch, the ruler. That again, lor me, had a lot to do with the 
war. So much killing. Brother killing brother. The whole turbu- 
lence. And ihc bird came into that. It was not the bird of peace, for 

which we were all hoping, but it became hke a war bird. Then after 
independence, it was the rise of the jongwe. Again the bird, the 
cock, the symbol of the party that had won. And there was peace. 

Then everything was around my sister, her illness. There were two 
or three years when my work was based on the two sisters. It was 
very much against the doctors, a hatred, a bitterness that her life 
couldn't be saved. She, for me, was the most precious thing in my 
life. The two of us were very close. It became very expressionistic, 
although the media somehow, oil on paper, was quite soft, but the 
work was violent. 

Helen Lieros, Icon, 1994, 
61 X 43cm, ink on paper 

And then after that was the search for my identity 
which 1 think has carried on till now. Who am I? 
Images from Greek sculpture... torsos appeared, always 
enclosed in glass cases as if in a museum with promi- 
nent figures, African forms outside. The Artist Viewed 
Through a Glass Case. 

BM: Which of your recent paintings do you feel are 


HL: One of the good paintings 1 find is my Lobola. 
There is a wedding, a woman, black and white. 

BM: What were you thinking of when you painted 

HL: After my mother died that's the book closed. My 
parents' whole life history had been so beautiful and so 
tragic and traumatic. My father came to Africa because 
he was shipwrecked in Cape Town. He was one of the 
survivors and he was waiting for a boat to come and 
pick him up. He was in the merchant navy. And 
somebody said why don't you come up to Rhodesia 
and visit the country while you wait for your boat. And 
he came here and he just went crazy about this country. 
He was always searching to find a country where he 
wasn't an alien. My father travelled all over the world, 
so he was not a Greek, more a cosmopolitan in that 
sense. And that's how he came to Africa. So what I 
did, subconsciously, was like a diary. All the work that 
I've done through this whole year has been a diary. 
With the Greeks as with the Africans, you have a 
dowry and you get married. The dowry in Greek is 
proika. In Shona it's lobola. So that figure represents 
the bride, the woman who came. But it also represents 
Africa, the lobola, so there is an interlink thoughout all 
the work, an intermingling. Just before my Mom died 
she wanted to go to Greece, for the Easter, and I saw 
again the symbolism of the goat and the fast. The goat 
to me is a very precious thing because in Gweru there 
was always the goat around. So there is the African 
goat and the Greek goat. All my work is interlinked 
between Greece and Africa, where there is such a similarity, and it is 
virtually based on all that has happened. So it's a diary of my land 
that I was bom in, that 1 love, and what I have inherited from my 

BM: Ritual, sacrifice, tradition, the goat, all play a large part in both 
African and Greek myth. What you identify with in the African 
culmre are those same elements that appear in the Greek culture... a 
kind of universal symbolism? 

HL: Exactly. 

BM: Myth could be described as "the soul's need for placing itself 
in the vast scheme of things." Why do you emphasise myth when 
you talk about art? 


(opposite) Helen Lleros, The Red String, 
1991, 118 X 128cm, mixed media 

(below) Helen Lleros, Heterogeneous (detail of 
triptych), 1995, 102 x 92 x 36cm, glypto mixed media 

ML: Because myth is something that is left behind 
somehow nowadays. The machine, science, technology, 
the rational and intellectual have taken over. But for the 
human, myth is very important. It has always intrigued 
me. Africa is for me a land in which the myth is so strong 
and yet we don't seem to look at it. It seems to be 
becoming irrelevant. And myth is the so-called 'exotic' 
element that the European is trying to find again... the 
spirits. In reality, it is the myth that counts so much. 
Aesop's fables and the symbolism, that intrigues me. In 
the ancient Greek theatre, it's the human spirit turned into 

BM: You recently went down to mount the Zimbabwe 
exhibition at the Joburg Biennale. How did the work from 
Europe, USA etc, on the Biennale strike you? 

HL: I didn't see any paintings! There was technology, 
photo montages, photographs. There was really no 
painting, the manipulation of the paint, the power of 
putting those brush strokes on... there was none of that. 
So maybe painting is out, in a sense, out of fashion or 
whatever. Things that excited me were the Angolan 
artists, the Benin artists, the Hungarians with their 
sensitive work. Most of the work that I really responded 
to was sculpture or installation. There was no painting 
about which I could say, God that was fantastic! Like 
when you go to Europe and you go to an exhibition of 
maybe even an unknown artist, you go in there and it 
knocks you back, as a painting. 

BM: Does that make you feel that you want to try other 

HL; Ah, I'm a painter. I mean I've always tried other 
mediums. I've loved etching. I've worked with relief. I 
love paper. I've been recycling, making paper and I'm 
going back here, in a way, to the creation of my Lucky 
Bean Tree where I moulded the paper in relief forms and 
embossed it. This has been going on for ten years, in my 
studio. Before I was doing these moulds and I had never 
been able to put them together. Now I've gone back 
again, making more of these moulds, and I just hope that 
something will come out of this. 

BM; In a general sense, I would say that much of the 
work on the Biennale wasn't very concerned with colour. 

HL; No, there was very little colour. 

BM: And that's an important element of your work. 

HL; Oh, very! I mean colour is the light of life. I 
respond to colour so strongly. It has so much to do with 
my whole world, the reaction. I mean there could be a 
black painting but how much of that black is black and 
how many other colours do you use to make that black? It 
could be a blue black, red black, mauve black, green 
black, grey black. It's not just black. It's what you put 
into it to try and get that black. And 1 think my preoccu- 
pation with colour is far too strong to just push it on the 
side. When I came home to Africa it was the colours that 
influenced me more than anything. As I began to re- 
Identify myself with the African environment so my 
painting became broader and my colour stronger, sym- 
bolic of the felt experience. Colour for me has become an 
emotional translation of visual material. 1 use pure 
saturated colours in rich harmonies of warm and cold hues 
related to the heat and light of Africa, trying to radiate 
their force and vibrance. And texture is integrated with 
colour. Who knows, maybe colour and painting might 

come back. Most of the work, even in Germany when I went, was 
installation and again very colourless as well. But there were 
paintings. There were the masters. And I feel what is probably 
happening is that the masters did such wonderful work that we 
cannot even touch them. Because we will never be Picassos... there 
arenomorePicassos... no more Matisses. So basically, psychologi- 
cally, I think everybody is trying to find another dimension and 
colour is not important to them. Overseas mechanical things are 
important, the gadgets, the videos, the lasers, this kind of thing. I am 
not interested in the computers and the gadgets. 

BM: So you have no desire to use a computer then? 

HL: Never! But if I used a computer I would probably tear up what 
came out and use it as a collage so it would only be part. 

BM: How important was your trip to Germany? 

HL; It was very important. It gave me an insight into how we are 
here in Zimbabwe in comparison to what is happening elsewhere. 
I need to see art, exhibitions and interchange with artists to analyse 
myself and my work. We are isolated here. We achieve much by 
this isolation because outside influences, movements and trends do 

not affect us so much and yet we have to see them to balance where 
we are. This stimulus helps us to go forward on our own path and 
challenges us to dare. 

BM: One of your big involvments locally has been in teaching... 

HL: Teaching is important in a sense that I kept up with times, with 
the young generation, with their thought, and helped them to express 
themselves. Some of my students come from very conservative 
backgrounds and you introduce them to things they hadn't seen or 
didn't know about, hadn't thought about. You bring out Soutine and 
Picasso, Kokoschka, and you open a new door into what people 
were trying to say. My involvement also has been with teachers 
from the rural areas who have been trying to find ways and means of 
being able to have an art club and also provoke thought with their 
students and again finding ways to improvise, saying let's work on 
newspaper, with mud, the making of brushes. I find it stimulating 
and I like young people, I find them very exciting. With the young 
generation of our black painters there is so much that is happening 
now, and I would rather spend my time in trying to help those who 
are producing something different. The different is what I'm looking 


Sioffer Geihng 

Helen Lieros, Sacrificial Goats, 
1994, 61 X 43cm, ink on paper 

BM: What do you find particularly interesting in the current art 
scene here? 

HL: I think it's very exciting. Don't forget that it's been stone, 
stone, stone, and now people are exploring colour and again the way 
they're moving from something that is very figurative, very 
realistic, and breaking it up and exploring the space and finding 
something more. Okay, you have a common factor that it is very 
much of a socio-subject, like coming from Zengeza to town and the 
folk that are ploughing the land. That is normal. But what happens 
to those... again the fragmentation, sometimes breaking it up and 
making it into maybe an abstract... or the symbolism that is coming 
out in the work. They are exploring the media, again the improvisa- 
tion of what they can get and what comes out of it. That's 
what art is all about... the creativity that is coming out. 

BM: Music has been very important in your life, how does it 
intedink with painting? How do you see the two art forms? 

HL: For me they're so close that it is just unbelievable. With 
sound and harmony, orchestral, there is so much colour The 
ups and downs, the drama, the peacefulness, the water 1 feel 
that sound has so much to do in my life, in my subconscious 
world with colour Music and painting, for me, are so 
interrelated. Even when I was little and I was playing the 
piano, I would see colours. My teacher would say... what, 
how are you playing? and I'd say, I see green... and that's a 
red note. No, she would say, that's a black note. And I 
would say, no that's a red note, because there was a harsh 
quality in that note. So my work is very much related to 
sound, always has been. 

BM: I think of your paintings and music as having a greater 
involvement in the inuiitive, subconscious kind of under- 
standing and response to life. It isn't the ideas so much as 
the feelings that are involved in life that you are painting 

HL: Yes, that's what I'm searching for So sometimes even 
if my work is static, if I hear a sound or listen to a beautiful 
orchestral symphony, it speaks to me, it helps me. 

BM: What about religion and the spiritual? You have done a 
lot of paintings of subjects like Easter, marriage... 

HL: We were talking about old artists like El Greco who 
were iconographic, and I love icons, the static, the glow and 
the colours... I think they have played a big part in my 
painting. The Easter ceremony is very beautiful in the Greek 
church. It's not just the spiritual, it's the whole procession, 
the symbolism... 1 think it's the symbolism in religion, and 
the way it has been retained. Living here, there is a lot. I 
didn't find it so much when I went back to Greece with my 
mother I felt that it had lost that spiritual... become very 
commercial. So I'm not an over-religious person but I love the 
symbols, the candles, the rise... there is a warmth in there that sort 
of recharges all those batteries, spiritually, that have just disinte- 
grated through the year So for me, Easter is very special. 

BM: When you're talking about religion, I feel you are seeing it as 
a celebration of life... 


HL: Yes, for Easter, it is. If you see it, feel it... it is so special. It 
gives you an insight. We are living but we don't look within 
ourselves, and I think Easter is a time when you look within 
yourself and try to find out how you tick and what it is all about. 
Even the fast... It cleanses you out and makes you more alert, 
makes you thmk on a higher level, makes you more aware, and 
makes you search withm yourself Out of my Greek, that is one 
thing I have retained, and Easter is one time that I find very special. 
Krislos anesli. Christ has risen. It is rising, and you want to rise 
inside you. It's very beautiful. 


Dear Editor 

I am an admirer of Pip Curling's ability to 
express herself, especially her article in 
Review in sorting out young African artists 
re realism. In reference to her interpretation 
of Giants & the Lone Woolf- 1 was very 
much affected when I read Malcolm 
Bradbury's book 10 Great Writers. These 
ten helped usher in 'modernity' - more or 
less published between the World Wars. It 
was a break away from the Victorian era - 
the past. Such a collection of greats in one 
volume led me to have the ten photocopied. 
I wanted to pay homage. 

To think all those great thoughts and ideas 
were constructed out of, using a common 
denominator - 26 letters of the alphabet 
(hence the alphabet at the bottom). The 
photocopies were neat-sized about 4x6. 
Cutting around the faces I got a key shape 
which I thought quite appropos - they were 
keys to a new approach to thinking. The 
negatives I chose to feel were the shapes of 
electric light bulbs - representing the readers 
as sentient beings receiving greatness (the 
dots inside the heads were 'hits'). 

Now these ten were all writers, not a 
politician nor a scientist in the lot ( two 
playwrights) - Joyce, Kafka, TS Eliot, 
Conrad, Mann, Proust, Ibsen, Pirandello, 
Dostoevsky and Woolf When the women 
artists thing came up, Woolf needed 
attention as t'was nine to one, male to 
female. Needless to say I'm all in favour of 
interpretation but 1 also want to defend 
universal, eclectic thinking as opposed to 
feminist bias. I'm no scholar, just a deep 
appreciator of greatness. In awe, 

Mary Davies 

Mary Davies, Giants and the Lone 
Woolf, 1994, mixed media 

Dear Editor 

It was with amazement followed by 
frustration that I read your comments 
referring to the lack of a local school of art 
(Gallery no 2). Two art schools already 
exist in Zimbabwe. For some extraordinary 
reason this fact is largely ignored by the 
local art community. Your comments in 
relation to the following facts would be 

1 . The Harare Polytechnic Art School 
opened in 1980. Its average intake is 20 
students per year most of whom graduated in 
the early years with a London City & Guilds 
Diploma in Design for print and latterly, a 
National Diploma in either Fine Art or 
Design for Print. 

2. In excess of 200 students have been 
trained by us. Many of them hold senior 
positions in advertising agencies, design 
studios and publishing houses. Many are 
self employed, some teaching in secondary 
schools. A large number have exhibited 
their work at Gallery Delta. Others have 
travelled abroad pursuing their careers 

3. Our present lecturer in charge is an ex- 
student who runs the Department extremely 
efficiently. Other members of staff include 
well known local artists. We are fortunate to 
have two expatriate lecturers on our full- 
time staff as well as numerous part-time 
teachers ensuring a full well-balanced 

4. At a recent exhibition at Gallery Delta 
several of the exhibiting artists were our 
students. This fact was ignored in the 

5. At the recent Graphic Artists of Zimba- 
bwe Association exhibition half of the artists 
were either our graduates or members of 

While we acknowledge that the Fine Art 
option has only been available for the past 
four years, it is difficult to understand why it 
is totally ignored. I fail to comprehend why, 
instead of offering encouragement and 
support to an institution with a proven track 
record, the art community continues to yearn 
for another Zimbabwe School of Art. It 
would be interesting to know how much 

money has already been spent on 'feasibility 
studies' and such-like for this project which 
shows no signs of ever becoming a reality. 
It is frustrating for the staff and students at 
the Poly to observe this waste when we 
know that even a small portion of this 
money could have been used to improve our 
woefully inadequate facilities. We are 
fortunate to be adequately staffed with 
qualified, competent, enthusiastic and 
dedicated staff - what we need is recognition 
and support! 

Dianne Deudney 

Editor's comment: 

'Diplomas' not degrees; 'woefully inad- 
equate facilities'; "local artists' as teachers; 
plus only one group of Fine Art diploma 
students whose work has been exhibited at 
Delta; these are some of the very reasons 
for the attempt, which began before the Poly 
offered the Fine Art option, to get funding 
for a fully recognised School of Art with 
degree status. Many of the Poly lecturers 
have had the benefit of training for a degree 
in Fine Art. Why should Zimbabwe's 
students be denied such an opportunity? 
There is certainly room for argument that the 
new School of Art could be developed from 
the Polytechnic Department. What is needed 
is a comprehensive plan for such a project - 
another feasibility study? Can the Poly offer 
one? Such studies are essential to persuade 
donors to support projects. Yes, a lot of 
money has been spent and we can only hope 
that it has not been wasted. However, it was 
extremely disturbing to read in The Herald 
recently that Professor Kahari, Director of 
the National Gallery, who is supposed to be 
leading the project, and who publicly 
declared (as did President Mugabe) at the 
1994 Heritage opening, that he would ensure 
that this project went ahead within his 
tenure, now thinks the School should be set 
up in South Africa! They already have 
several universities and polys that offer good 
degree courses in Fine Art. We need one 
here. Were those heartening speeches just 
more empty rhetoric? Ironically, Professor 
Kahari has been invited to talk at a sympo- 
sium in London later this year on the 
School! What will he say? Stephen 
Williams, former project manager/consultant 
SADC Region School of Art and Design 
Project, will reply, in Gallery no 5, to the 
above letter Any other contributions to the 
debate would be welcome. 


Nicholas Mukomberanwa, 

Reviews of 
recent work 


Nicholas Mukomberanwa, 

My spirit and I, National Gallery, 

March 1995 

Nicholas Mukomberanwa is one of the few 
veteran Zimbabwean stone sculptors to 
have broken the ethnographic mould. This 
retrospective exhibition of 72 sculptures 
and drawings (1962-1995) however did not 
contain his best nor make apparent the 
individual stylistic and conceptual 
development of his work. In the 60s, 
Mukomberanwa addressed traditional 
African beliefs and socio-religious themes; 
his early style was detailed, rounded, with 
exaggerated features as in Rain God and 
Chaminuka the Great. This period was 
followed by a more expressionist outlook 
in the 7()s. when his work announced pre- 
indcpcndence prophecies evident in 
Breaking Free and showed experimenta- 
tion with abstract planes and stylisation. 
By the late 80s, post-independence 
disillusion preoccupied the artist, captured 
in Street Beggar. Greed and Too Many 

Preachers. These later works are moralistic 
in tone and deal with issues of corruption, 
exploitation and the capitalist mentality. 
These pieces established the artist as social 

Mukombieranwa's work is narrative and 
immediate. Though presented with a 
modernist facade, the sculpture expresses 
African ideals and mannerisms. This is, for 
example, articulated in his rendering of 
anatomy and posture. Most of the figurative 
works are crouching, seated or kneeling in 
typical Shona fashion. His work over the 
years reveals a consistent search for a new 
way of expressing himself and a progressive 
reduction to minimalist statement. Techni- 
cally, Mukomberanwa's control of three 
dimensional viewpoints and interplay of 
forms, coupled with an assymetrical rhythm 
of curves and angles in his best work, 
reveals his use of both intuition and formal 
sculptural intelligence. 

It is a pity that some private collectors 
refused to loan works to the National 
Gallery (though this speaks to the personal 
regard collectors have for Mukomberanwa's 
work and to the Gallery's unwillingness to 
provide insurance), and that the layout 
denied any understanding of the artist's 
development, as what could have been the 
most important retrospective ever mounted 
in the country, failed to do Mukomberanwa 
justice. TM 

The dove's footprints 

Marjorie Locke was well known to 
Zimbabweans for her commitment to the 
arts and crafts of this country. What we 
didn't know was that, in addition to running 
the old, and facilitating the development of 
the new, Bulawayo Art Gallery, in the face 
of seemingly endless and insuimountable 
obstacles, she was quietly carrying out an 
in-depth study of the traditional woven 
patterns found in the baskets, mats, beer 
strainers, penis sheaths and other household 
objects of the Ndebele people. \nThe 
Dove's Footprints, published posthumously 
by Baobab Books, her work has come to 
fruition. The name and a concise explana- 
tion of the origin and meaning of each 
basketry pattern is given, accompanied by 
illustrative close-up photographs. The 
simple direct text gives the materials (a list 
of botanical names is included), dyes, 
techniques and uses, as well as identifying 
which district each object comes from. A 
detailed introduction sets the cultural and 
historical background and space is given to 
a description of the coiling, twining, 
starting and finishing techniques employed. 
The book closes with a look at variations on 
traditional patterns, contemporary patterns 
and the effects of commercialisation. Line 
drawings indicating the form of the baskets 
would have been a useful addition. The 
layout has been beautifully done although 
the designer has been seduced by the 
softness of the dove rather than the more 
relevant crisp markings of its footprints. 
Our knowledge of the material culture of 
Zimbabwe is enlarged and enhanced by this 
immensely pleasurable book. TTiis nation 
owes another debt of gratitude to Marjorie 
Locke. BM 

The Dove's Footprints by Marjorie Locke, 
Harare: Baobab Books. 1995, Z$1I0. 

Raku workshops, Rosselli Gal- 
lery, Masvingo, March 1995 

F'our raku gla/ing workshops run by Gemt 
Mcyburg of Gwaai Potteries were recently 
held at the Rosselli Gallery. Raku is a very 
direct quick method of glazing, creating 
random markings and textural effects. The 
pot is taken out of the kiln red-hot where- 
upon the glaze 'crazes' or cracks on 
exposure to the air. While still hot the pot 
is smoked in leaves, grass or sawdust 
causing various stains and markings. These 

A new venue: Pierre 
Gallery, March 1995 

Eagerly anticipated as a new artspace, the 
Gallery Pierre threw open its doors to the 
public at the end of March. Former 
Alliance Francaise and Le Forum curator, 
Olivier Sultan, has created his own 

n d 

effects are preserved by plunging the pot 
into cold water. The resulting colours are 
rich; blues and greens oxidising to reds. 
Ceramics in Zimbabwe have been suffering 
from a lack of inspiration. Let's hope this 
initiative will spur the potters on. For 
visitors to Masvingo, the Rosselli Gallery, 
recently re-opened under the enthusiastic 
new management of John and Nicky 
Rosselh, is at 39 Hughes Street. NR 

Visual arts by BAT students, 
National Gallery, May 1995 

Students, particularly in our conformist and 
conservative society, need to be encouraged 
to express themselves freely, to explore, be 
bold. They also need to be pushed into 
thinking about their subjects and engaging 
with the ambiguities of life. Work on this 
exhibition is disappointing in its scale and 
treatment. The predominance of small 
monochromatic pnnts may testify to the 
learning of techniques but in the end the 
artist uses whatever materials she/he can get 
to carry her/his personal, evocative vision. 
One student who is developing a strong 
personal style and statement is Harry 
Mutasa. His paintings display a pleasure in 
colour and movement, and his metal 
sculptures capture the physical tensions of 
bodies with humour and panache. The 
range of his subject matter indicates an 
awareness of the multiplicity of creative 
possibilities. Another young artist of 
promise is Givemore Huvasa whose small 
etchings were sensitively done. The 
improving standard of the graphics holds 
possibihties for the future. BM 

Harry Mutasa, Sunbathing 

exhibition venue at the comer of Churchill 
and Normandy Avenues in Alexandra Park, 
Harare. The gallery is a converted resi- 
dence, graced with a pool and a landscaped 
garden, temporarily home until the end of 
July to the first exhibition of — for want of 
a title — Sultan's Favountes. The Northern 
News put it succinctly when they said of the 
exhibition: "All of his old favourites of 
wood and stone are there: Gutsa, Jack, 
Munyaradzi. Tshunia and others " and 
indeed the show represents much of the 
talent that Sultan has highlighted, and in 
some cases nurtured in former exhibitions, 
now all brought together under one roof. 
The work is displayed throughout the house 
and in the garden beyond. 

I am particularly fond of Fanizani Akuda's 
mischievously smiling figures in stone. His 
faces seem to combine characteristics of 
oriental and Shona features, in humourous 
surrender to all of life's vicissitudes. 
Zephania Tshuma's work, often vaguely 
obscene and sometimes very amusing — 
jutting red penises and figures with heads 
stuck up their bums — are also here in 
profusion. Rashid Jogee's masterly 
painting, justly named So That We May 
Know Each Other, spans one entire wall. 
His wildly stroked paint, vigorously applied 
layer upon layer, seems to blow all ways at 
once and creates a dynamic tension amongst 
the more serene works that surround it. I've 
never much gone in for the darling of the 
stone sculpture afficionados, Henry 
Munyaradzi, but his ubiquitous, blank, 
circular-eyed signature faces, adorning all 
manner and shape of stone, are here amply 
in evidence. Lazarus Takawira's sculptures 
remind me of birds about to ascend in flight. 
These sleek and streamlined creatures are 
perhaps the most stylised of all the works on 
display paying little heed to the stone from 
which they are delicately carved. Aside 
from Jogee. amongst the painters. Celine 
Gilbert's darkly expressionist paean to the 
last call. The Pub. most impressed me, as 
did Jill Bond's delightfully sensual Sleep- 
less Nights. 

Sultan plans to hold regular one- 
person shows on a 
monthly basis and hopes 
that this new venture will 
generate fresh criticism 
and closer dialogue 
between artists and the 
public. DJ 

Africa 95 begins in August and runs until 
December throughout Britain. Keston 
Beaton may attend a workshop and exhibit 
at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and possibly 
other Zimbabwean work by Berry Bickle 
and Keston will be at the Delfina Studio 
Trust in London. Exhibitions include: 

and events 

Contemporary Metalwork in Africa (Crafts 
Council); The Art of African Textiles 
(Barbican); Africa: The Art of a Continent 
(Royal Academy of Arts) ; many other 
galleries will also be having African 
exhibitions (details from the Editor). 
Margaret Garlake will be Gallery's eye in 
London, and Tony Mhonda will be in 
Yorkshire, givmg us their impressions of 
Africa 95 and its impact in Britain. 

Therese Houyoux from Geneva will be 
exhibitmg paintings and graphics at Gallery 
Delta from Tuesday 25 July. Houyoux 
works with the human form, exploring 
through process changes in imagery. 

Amal<hosi Theatre from Bulawayo will 
be holding their Inxusa festival at Gallery 
Delta in August. Cont Mhlanga's group is 
justly renowned for their energetic expres- 
sive drama. Don't miss this chance to see 
some of Zimbabwe's best — watch the 
press for details. 

Helen Lieros will exhibit paintings and 
graphics at Gallery Delta in late June/early 
July. The works are part of her Inheritance 
series and will feature new developments 
using paper mouldings. 

Women artists of Zimbabwe will be the 
focus of the Longman exhibition at the 
National Gallery from early August to mid- 
September, Also exhibited during this 
period, will be work by Harare Polytech- 
nic students. A chance to gauge the 
potential of the Poly as Zimbabwe's 'School 
of Art'? 

Martin van der Spuy will exhibit 
paintings at the Pierre Gallery in July. At 
the same venue in August, a one-man show 
by Joseph Muzondo will feature stone 
and metal sculpture, and in September, 
Brighton Sango's stone sculpture will be 
on show. Pierre Gallery is running a 
competition with Alliance Francaise on 
the theme of 'Sport and Movement' and 
prizes will be awarded. 




The art magazine from Gallery Delta 

' .^i; ^-;i 


Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Ga/Zery magazine: 

Anglo American Corporation Services Limited 

The Rio Tinto Foundation 



Joerg Sorgenicht 


Ddta Lorporatton Umitefl 



September 1995 



To celebrate a landscape: an interview with Henry Thompson 

Open places: a Comishman in Africa 
by Peter and Margaret Garlake 

Jean Hahn: impressionist of Africa 
by Barbara Murray 

Ways of seeing the rural landscape in Zimbabwean fiction 
and painting by Tim McLoughlin 

Thomas Mukarobgwa: memories of nature 
by Pip Curling 


Letter from London 
by Margaret Garlake 

Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Cover: Henry Thompson. Bri(lf;e. 1995. 30 x 40cm, 

acrylic on canvas. Photo by Dani Deudney 

Left above: Tapfuma Gutsa, Gadget of Influence, 1995, 
approx 200 x 40cin. mixed media. 

© Gallery Publications 

Puolisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Munay. Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Originatio n by HPP Studio. Printing by A.W. Bardwell & 
Co. Paper Express from Graphtec Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, c/o Gallery Delta. 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue. PO. Box UA 373 Union Avenue. Harare, Tel: (14)792135. 


So Gallery has survived one year in print 
and the wealth of material that deserves 
publication is so large that, finances 
allowing, we will be publishing well into 
the niillenium. In this issue oi Gallery, we 
focus on one of the major strands in 
Zimbabwe's artistic tradition: landscape. 

The visual experience of nature and 
people's interaction v\'ith nature have 
continuously absorbed painters in Zimba- 
bwe, from the earliest San artists who 
expressed their consuming communion with 
nature on their cave walls to our more 
recent painters who have almost all included 
landscape, at one time or another, in their 

Landscape painting offers the viewer a 
foothold in nature — a way of seeing a 
specific place, of experiencing the perma- 
nency, the variety and the flux of existence. 
It reminds us of the origin and absolute 
foundation of our existence: the enduring 
cycle of destructive and creative change of 
which humankind is only a recent and often 
irritating fragment. 

Landscape is not currently 'popular' content 
in the art of First World countries where 
over-industrialisation and the ramifications 
of technological progress, urbanisation and 
excessive materialism make individuals' 
relationships with nature increasingly 
tenuous. In Zimbabwe, we are still very 
much figures in a landscape. The majority 
of our population lives in countryside. 
Towns and cities are relatively small 
outgrowths. All but main roads readily 
revert to grass and mud. Many of those 
who do live in cities either have close ties 
with extended family and inherited land in 
the rural areas or treasure their easy ability 
to get out into the 'bush'. Despite history, 
politics and emerging techology. nature still 
dominates our lives. The land surrounds. 
The drought threatens. The rain brings 
release. Nature is patently and directly the 
source of our survival. In Belgium recently 
when 100 children were asked to draw a 
chicken, 7S of them drew a headless, 
plucked, frozen, packaged version! This is 
not yet the scenario in Zimbabwe. In a 
global context. Africa is one area where 
natural forces arc pre-eminent and this is 
reflected in our art. 

Perhaps too. the landscape of Africa itself 
arouses a strong response, demanding an 
image. In his KclKni to Paradise, after 
years of exile, the committcdly political 
Breytenbach admits: 

■"... ihe essence ofAfrku is in its clariiy. 
its bareness, its hariztms burned clean of 

hisliiry and of time... I nas filled with 
awe at the eternal beauty of it, diminish- 
ing our human concerns, or at least 
putting all in a bigger perspective." 

Modern angst which springs from and 
focuses on our moral and philosphical 
uncertainty and our potential destruction of 
ourselves and our environment is by 
omission a statement of the importance of 
landscape. While expression of that angst is 
honest and essential, it has become unbal- 
anced, a dictatorial mindset. Talking about 
the work of the Post-impressionists, Dr A C 
Barnes, founder of the Barnes Foundation 
collection, said that their paintings were 
"richly expressive of life that means most to 
the normal man alive today." He wrote 

"If the creative impulse leaves its mark 
in a material that generates similar 
feelings in other people, the work of art 
is a human document of permanent 
worth. Its degree of worth is determined 
bv the extent to which the artist has 
enriched, improved, humanized, the 
common experience of man in the world 
in which he lives." 

I would venture to suggest that much of the 
newest art coming out of people's experi- 
ence of the deteriorating natural environ- 
ment in First World countries serves only to 
impoverish, depress and dehumanise the 
world in which we live. Much of this art is 
shocking and disturbing, a valid, necessary 
response to contemporary reality but it 
offers little in terms of positive alternatives. 
Landscape painters in Zimbabwe allow us 
to experience the power and beauty of 
nature and our place within that beauty. 

This is nol a promotion of idyllic and 
Utopian |)astoralism but rather a reminder 
that landscape paintings "... possess... 
regenerative power... and demonstrate once 
more that luiture could be the ultimate 
.source of strength for the contemporaiy 
world." Pissarro said, ".Salvation lies in 
nature, iww more than ever." He lell that 
the troubled times in u liich they lived (in 
1900!) dcmandcil a keen awareness of the 
visual world and that developing a sensitiv- 
ity to nature was vital nol only to goinl art 
but also to meaningful existence. 

One of the greatest artists of the 2()tli 
century. Cezanne, encouraged artists, 
"There i\ a passing moment in the world. 
I'aint it in all its reality. Forget everything 
else for that." Part of our passing moment 
in Zimbabwe is our still dominant and 
stunning landscape, largely unaltered as yet 
b\ the particular scoiMgcs of what we couki 

label the 'over-developed' world. Zimba- 
bwean artists continue to attempt to capture 
its significance for our lives and to offer 
human documents which can enrich, 
improve and humanise. 

In this issue we focus on a few of the varied 
representations of landscape in contempo- 
rary Zimbabwean art. There is not room to 
include many who deserve mention but it 
serves to affirm the place landscape painting 
has in our community despite its not being 
chosen for exhibition overseas. Along with 
the figurative, abstract and conceptual, 
landscape maintains its place and contrib- 
utes to a "bigger perspective" in our art 
scene here. 

In the review of Nicholas Mukomberanwa's 
retrospective exhibition in Gallery no 4, 
reference was made to the National 
Gallery's "...unwillingness to provide 
insurance." The Head of Exhibitions 
assures us that the National Gallery does in 
fact provide full insurance on any works 
loaned by collectors. However, works 
brought to the National Gallery by artists 
are subject to restricted insurance. We 
apologise for any damage the statement may 
have caused to the National Gallery's 

Art revels in and seeks to understand and 
express the variety and multiformity of 
human experience. One thing history 
proves is Ihe impossibility of pronouncing 
infallibly. A short time ago in Zimbabwe 
one man infamously pronounced "never in 
mv lifelime" now we have another pro- 
nouncing "never ever"\ It may lake time 
but ine\ itably his dictate will be reversed by 
knowledge and justice. Art history reveals a 
continuum of change in people's under- 
standing and Galleiy actively sets out to 
provoke such changes. We aim to present 
art from Africa so that people both here and 
elsewhere may see the varied representa- 
tions of local experience. We also seek 
views on art from beyond our borders and in 
this issue we include a "Letter from 
London' bv the well-known art critic. 
Margaret Garlake. Perhaps the w ork she 
offers and her insights may spark some 
changes locally. 

The Editor. 

Henry Thompson, Mountain, 1995, 61 x 76cm, acrylic 

To celebrate a 


Filling his canvases with light, colour and space, 

Henry Thompson, has worked slowly 

to build up a distinctive body of work. 

In this interview with Barbara Murray 

he talks about painting landscape 

and his latest canvases. 

BM: Henry, I've known you and your work for many years now 
and what surprises me is not so much that you have recently started 
making Nyanga landscapes but rather that you haven't done so 

HT: Well, I know that for both of us Nyanga has always stood high 
on the list of favourite places. It is both visually and emotionally 
very accommodating, isn't it? But I cannot remember ever wanting 
to paint it. Besides, in the early days my interests were elsewhere, 
I was drifting into an abstracted mode of expression and the 
Nyanga landscape just did not fit the bill. I was doing mostly land- 
scapes, getting progressively more abstracted. I wanted to see how 
far I could push the landscape into abstraction without losing the 

BM: Why do you consistently choose landscape as your subject? 

HT: Because for me it is such a sane thing to do. I grew up on the 
edge of the Kalahari which is a part of the world fairly often sub- 
jected to prolonged droughts and one has no choice but to deal with 
essentials if one is going to survive. You learn to read the land- 

BM: Modernism and post-modernism largely ignore landscape. 
What place do you consider landscape painting to hold in contem- 
porary art'.' 

HT: Perhaps not a prominent place but this is not unusual. I don't 
think it is all that often that the landscape achieves the prominence 
it had with Constable and Turner, and then afterwards, with the 
Impressionists and the Fauves. 

BM: Many of your works incorporate the human figure in the land- 
scape. What is your thinking behind this? 

HT: The figures I tried to integrate into the surface of the land- 
scapes in such a way that the one cannot be .separated 
from the other. The thinking is that if you are going to 
destroy the landscape you will also destroy the figure. 

BM: Who have been the influential artists for your 
landscape work? For example, in your early painting 
days you must have been aware of the Nyanga land- 
scapes that Robert Paul was doing at the time. How did 
you react to them? 

HT: By the time I got to see Robert Paul's work, I was 
already a confirmed Nyanga addict. I was impressed by 
his work and I still am. He is for me the foremost 
painter of the Nyanga landscape. During the 60s. the 
Rhodes Hotel was run by a woman whose name escapes 
me for the moment. .She owned a good collection of 
Robert Paul's Nyanga landscapes which she hung in the 
sittingroom just off the main entrance. This room 
became my first port of call whenever I went to Nyanga. 
When she eventually left she took the paintings with her 
and it has never been the same since. 

BM: What is il about Paul 

work precisely that you 

HT: I don't believe one can ever say anything 'precise- 
ly' about painting! No, his biggest attraction for me is 
something completely different: he was a no-nonsense 
person antl he painted that way! 

BM: Apart from Robert Paul's work. I know that you 
read widely and have studied the works of other land- 
scape artists such as Cezanne... . 

HT: Ah! Cezanne. I thought you would get around to him; one 
always does. Didn't you tell me you went to Aix some years ago? 

BM: Yes, I did and I wish I'd understood him better then. Even so, 
what struck me was how Cezannesque the landscape still was and 
perhaps always will be. 

HT: Yes, well this gives one some idea of the measure of this her- 
mitical old genius. His prolonged and probing dialogue with Mont 
Sainte-Victoire must surely be one of the greatest triumphs in the 
annals of landscape painting. One feels that his exploration of this 
landscape was largely an exploration of the self. D H Lawrence 
wrote somewhere that Western painting has never been able to 
achieve anything worth a damn apart from the few apples that 
Cezanne painted. Well, as we all know, he became a power-house 
for twentieth century art. The trouble though is when you plug into 
a genius of this stature you plug in at the level of your own under- 
standing and the results are not always commendable! 

BM: What about Matisse, Picasso, De Kooning, Soutine, 
Beckmann etc... painters you often refer to? 

HT: When we are talking landscape there is not much to be said 
here. Matisse is regarded by many as possibly one of the best land- 
scape painters of this century. While he was still a student, Gustave 
Moreau told him that he was destined to simplify painting. Well he 
did and he did it beautifully. If one considers that he is also one of 
the greatest colorists ever, I can't see how he could possibly go 
wrong with landscape! But he felt no great attraction for it and 
neither did Picasso. Soutine on the other hand did, and all those 
strange landscapes that seem precariously to teeter on the edge of 
total chaos which he painted while he was living in Ceret were to 
have a lasting effect on many subsequent painters including De 
Kooning. But it is De Kooning's more structured paintings that 
appeal to me, paintings such as Door to the River. Montauk High- 
wax and Ruth Zowie for instance. 

BM: Getting back to your curreni preoccupation, does the 
Nvaniia series on which you are now working differ in any way 
from other series that you have done in the past? 

HT: Well, there haven't been all that many. Not only am I not 
prolific. I'm as slow as all get out... but to get back to your 
question. No, not really. Apart from the Ov/P/A/zu/i/c series, 
they are all of them about landscape. And even the cafes should 
be seen as the places of concord in the transit from one land- 
scape to another. The Cafe Afrique series started sometime in 
the 80s. I have been an incurable cafe-ist for most of my life 
and the cafe theme, for me. suggests a wide range of possibili- 
ties: I'm working on it! 

BM: So that's what you are doing in the cafes.. 
What is it about cafes that intrigues you? 


HT: It has more to do with being recharged than being 
intrigued. It's a place away from the place where you work, 
where, if your luck holds, the coffee is good and so is the com- 
pany. It's a place where people come and go... But getting 
back to the series, my first was called Refuge and was the direct 
result of the armed struggle in the 70s. I did these paintings in 
an effort to come to terms with my own anxieties. They were 
inward-looking landscapes with all self-revealing markings kept 
to a minimum and are perhaps the most abstract paintings I 
have done. They spilt over into the early 80s as interrupted 
images and barricaded landscapes. About this time, give or 
take. I did a big painting of two bathers in the open to mark the 
end of hostilities. 

Meanwhile a new series, which I called Mozambican Summer 
was on its way. These paintings, on which I worked off and on 
until the early 90s, were landscapes anticipating more pleasur- 
able times in this sub-region. 

BM: How and why did this Nyanga series begin? 

HT: A few days after the opening of a solo exhibition of mine 
at Gallery Delta in "92. Sarah and I went to Nyanga. Some 
months later I did my first Nyanga landscape. Before the year 
was out I did another one. The following year I worked on 
other paintings and then, in "94. I returned to what was now 
obviously becoming a Nyanga series. What 1 had in mind right 
from the start was to do some, not too many, moderately sized 
paintings to celebrate a landscape that has given me so much 
pleasure for so many years. 

BM: Your reluctance to paint the Nyanga landscape has been a 
longstanding one. Now we have this present involvement. 
Could this series have been induced by the Mozambican 
Summers, both being about the pleasure of landscape? 

HT: 1 would not rule that out. but you know it is amazing how 
much visual information filters through even when you may be 
looking with only half an eye. And you need this information 
when you respond emotionally to whatever comes to demand an 
image. I think this is how the creative process works for me. 

BM: Did you have a clear picture in your mind of the images 
that you wanted to make? 

HT: Not clear, no. But I knew I wanted to create a spirit of 
place that would be a celebration of the landscape. The thing to 
do was to avoid the extremes of visual inimicry or the hiero- 
glyphics of introspection. 

BM: What do you mean when you talk of "visual mimicry"? 

HT: What 1 mean is a too detailed graphic description that will 

completely swamp the feel of the place. As I said before, what I 
was after was to create a spirit of place with only enough visual in- 
formation as touchstones to achieve this. 

BM: What appeals to you most about the Nyanga landscape? 

HT: It has a quality of light that appeals to me greatly. I am talk- 
ing about the emotional light rather than the physical one. And sec- 
ondly, the space. For a mountainous terrain it is remarkably open 
and uncluttered. 

BM: Light and space would suggest colours... 

HT: Exactly. I was going to have to rely on colour to do so many 

things for me. For instance, how do you paint mountains fairly 
close-up so they don't block thai opennesss you wish to achieve? 
The only solution I managed to come up with was to run the colour, 
let's say blue, of the sky, as far down as possible and then drawing 
the outline of the mountain, a simple line, somewhere in this blue 
colour field. In other words, the mountain and the sky are exactly 
the same blue. Now when you look at this painting the blue below 
the outline of the mountain seems to be slightly darker than the 
identical blue of the sky. Colour can be very obliging, sometimes! 

BM: Now that many of the paintings are completed do you feel 
reasonably satisfied or do you... 

HT: Please don"t say it! You know, in the Pompidou Centre there 
is this marvellous painting by Matisse called Violinist at the 
Window. He stands with his back to the viewer playing his violin 
and I think Matisse was right. I can"t help feeling that instead of 
doing these Nyanga paintings, a lively tune played on a pennywhis- 
tle for instance would have been much more to the point. don"t you 
think so? 

(above) Henry Thompson, Hill, 1995, 111 x 120cm, acrylic 

(left) Henry Thompson, The Wader, 1995, 51 x 41cm, 

(above) Peter Lanyon, Portreath Watch, 1962, 183 x 122cm, oil on canvas. Within 
weeks of his return from southern Africa, Peter Lanyon was painting the small 
Cornish harbour of Portreath. He continued to do so throughout his life. 
Portreath Watch, 1962, is his last painting of the subject. 

(right above) Peter Lanyon, (title unknown), 1938, 33 x 40cm, oil on board 

(right above) Peter Lanyon, (title unknown), 1938, 33 x 40cm, oil on board 

Peter & Margaret 
Garlake discover 
evidence in 
Zimbabwe of the 
effect of the 
African landscape 
on Peter Lanyon, 
an artist of inter- 
national stature 

The open places 
a Cornishman in Africa 

In September 1993. during a visit to 
the office of a keen art collector in 
Harare, two small landscape paintings 
of southern African views attracted 
attention by the vigour and freshness 
of their treatment. The collector told 
us he had bought them at the auction 
of the contents of an old colonial 
house in Harare. He had read the sig- 
nature on them as "Ganyon" but his 
research had failed to reveal any south- 
ern African artist of that name. 

It appeared to us that they were almost cer- 
tainly very early works of the Cornish 
artist, Peter Lanyon, for whom we had both 
had, for many years, a particular enthusi- 
asm. The paintings were removed from 
their frames to see whether there was any 
confirmatory evidence on the backs. There 
was not, but one bore a painting of the 
Conical Tower of Great Zimbabwe, con- 
firming at least that the artist had visited 
this country. Slides of the paintings and 
descriptions of the signature were sent to 

Lanyon's widow. Sheila, who immediately 
confirmed that they were indeed by him. 

Peter Lanyon was bom in 1918 in the 
Cornish fishing town of St Ives. His father 
was at the centre of the town's lively artis- 
tic community; he was also somewhat of a 
political radical and. for instance, a strong 
supporter of the Afrikaans cause in the 
Boer War. Peter studied art during his 
schooling at Clifton College and later at 
Penzance Art School. Encouraged by the 
art historian, Adrian Stokes, he then joined 
the Huston Road Art School in London to 
work under William Coldstream and Victor 
Pasmore. Though he considered this an 
"exceedingh good training", he left after 
only two months. At this time, Lanyon's 
paintings were set down in a lively, 
sketchy manner which inevitably showed 
the impact of his teachers and of the great 
modern pioneers and sometimes hinted at 
the sensuous paint and bold marks of his 
mature work. 

A few days after his twentieth birthday, 
Lanyon, his mother Lilian and his sister 
Mary went out to South Africa. Prior to 
her marriage to Peter's father, Lilian had 
been married to a mining engineer on the 
Rand. He had died of tuberculosis very 
young. The family arrived in Cape Town 


young. The family arrived in Cape Town on 
25 March 1938 and travelled to Johannes- 
burg where Lilian's first husband's family 
entertained them and introduced them to the 
social life of the white middle class. Peter, 
radical and politically aware, was shocked 
by white racial attitudes and was attracted 
by the bush more than the cities. They 
made several excursions from Johannes- 
burg, the most memorable being to the 
Mont aux Sources in the Drakensberg where 
Mary vividly recalls that Peter was so 
impressed by the drama and vastness that he 
sketched while he rode. 

On 21 May the three left for the Victoria 
Falls where Peter, who painted assiduously 
throughout the trip, was furious because the 
light was too harsh to work. Peter then 
spent two or three days in Northern 

'■/ said I wuiueil lo paint an African, sn they 
got a native to stand up in front of me and 
play a concertina, one of those round ones. 
and I hated it. I couldn 'I paint him and yet I 
couldn 't understand what I hated — there 
was sometliiiifi terrible that this man should 
be standing up and doing this. I remember 
what I did. I threw the painting away and I 
sat down and asked him to sit down — he 
was ven,' embarrassed about this — and 
asked him to play, and he played some 
marvellous music, and I still get echoes of 
what he played from this music that is 
played by the Cape coloureds and the 
Africans in the Cape, which I think is even 
greater than jazz" 

The party then returned through Bulawayo 
where they visited the Matopos and Peter 
greatly admired some of the rock paintings. 
Between 29 May and 12 June, the Lanyons 
stayed with the Crease family in Salisbury 
from where they visited Mazowe, the 
Chinoyi Caves and Great Zimbabwe. On 
the voyage out to South Africa, Peter had 
become attached to Peggy Crease, who was 
later to marry a van Niekerk whose brother 
was a tobacco farmer The two paintings 
first identified may have been given, by 
Peter, to the Crease family. 

This was almost the end of their trip; they 
spent 14 to 16 June in Johannesburg. One 
ill-documented episode remains. In 
Johannesburg. Peter held his first one-man 
exhibition. This could either have been in 
May and included paintings made in the 
first two months only, or during the two 
days at the end of their visit to include 
paintings made in their three weeks in 
Rhodesia. But two days is scarcely time to 
select, frame, catalogue and hang an 
exhibition: Peter was at this time painting 
prolifically, probably producing at least one 

painting every day, so he would have had 
ample material to select from before they 
left South Africa for the north. The most 
logical guess is that most works were 
selected and the show prepared before they 
returned. Mary recalls only that the gallery 
was a small, upstairs space and that no other 
artist shared the show. No catalogue 
survives but given that, at this time, Peter 
was working on a small scale, he probably 
showed at least 20 paintings. Two of them 
may be those identified in Harare. Two 
were recently sold by Sheila Lanyon. She 
retains one, of Cape carts probably in Cape 
Town. On the reverse. Peter painted a 
portrait of himself in the uniform of the 
Royal Air Force which he joined in 1940. 
Another, a larger work, of houses in Cape 
Town with Table Mountain in the back- 
ground, was given to the Newlyn Art 
Gallery for auction in 1969 and re-auctioned 
in Penzance in 1994. Some are almost 
certainly still in South Africa or Zimbabwe, 
unidentified by their present owners. 

Lanyon later spoke eloquently of the 
importance to him of the African experi- 

".South Africa had an immense influence 
cm me. I found I suddenly met a country 
which was uncultured, a country that was 
wide open and had no sensibility: ify(ni can 
understand what that means about a 
country. It was so at the Cape, which had 
an oldness about it. and was so in the bush 
amongst the animals... The country was loo 
big for me. in fact it was so big I insisted at 
one time that I must go up one of the 
mountains, so I went with my sister on 
horseback and I remember climbing up a 
rock face of about 300 feet at about 9500 
feet up and sweating with the lack of 
oxygeti. We spent the night up there on top. 
I found that I really began to get to grips 
with it. And I've still got drawings that I did 
on the back of a horse on the way up. ami I 
think they actually luut cm influence on my 
interest in very high places, vaslnesses. for 
instance in what I would call a frontier 
civilisation, something which is not 
established and small and tiny and meticu- 
lously kept like Britain or Switzerlaiul. but 
the open places... When I came hack here I 
got extremely disillusioned with painting 
what was in front of me. I found that going 
down the coast and painting a hit of 
lUmnibal's Cam or Zennor Cam was very 
boring because I had tricks ami ways of 
doing it." 

Often inaccurately described as an Abstract 
Hxpressionisl painter, Lanyon was certainly 
intensely aware and interested in all 
developments in this field, visited the 
United States with increasing frequency and 

became a close friend of Mark Rothko and 
Robert Motherwell. However, Lanyon 
insisted on the "primary importance of 
knowing before making" and while his 
paintings often resemble those of gestural 
artists working "on automatic", his own 
process was far removed from their Zen- 
inspired emptying of the unconscious. Yet 
his art was also intuitive: intuition was set 
to work on a vast store of information 
recording his relationship with the country- 
side. Throughout his life. Lanyon insisted: 

"I'm really Just an old landscape painter 
like Constable, only they can 't see it. I shall 
probably end up painting a lot of sheep on a 

Having chosen to work in paint. Lanyon 
struggled constantly to extort from it an 
expression corresponding to his multi- 
dimensional sensuous experience of 
landscape. Far from being a quiet contein- 
plation of nature, this experience involved 
immersion in sea, gales and mine-shafts: 
observation of the variations in the greens. 
greys and blues of the countryside: mobility 
to register the abrupt shifts in angle, scale 
and distance to be seen in the landscape of 
West Penwith in Cornwall and. finally, the 
mastery of another diinension by learning to 
fiy a glider. This last ended with his death 
from injuries sustained in a gliding accident 
in August 1964. 

Southern Africa was the starting point of an 
important artistic journey. The Drakensberg 
first stimulated his fascination with high 
places and vertiginous viewpoints. The 
paintings he made in southern Africa are 
raw and tentative but it seems that the 
intense impact of the landscape was an 
iinportant contribution to the developing 
.sense of space — formulated from sound, 
smell, touch, local myth and history as well 
as visual appearance — that informed all his 
mature work. 

We are most grateful to Mary Schofield, 
Peter's sister, for providing an itinerary of 
their journey and telling us of her memories 
of it: to Sheila Lanyon for confirming the 
identification of the two Harare paintings 
and showing us three others. She also 
probably has Peter's diary of the trip but has 
not yet located it again. The quotations are 
taken from taped interviews transcribed in 
Andrew Lanyon's book. Peter Lanyon. 
privately published by him in 1990. Some 
material is taken from Margaret Garlake's 
"The Constructions of Peter Lanyon" in 
I'eter Lxmyon: Air. Lcmd and Sea. London: 
The South Bank Centre, 1992. We would, 
of course, be delighted to hear of any other 
paiiuings or information on Lanyon's 
African experience. 

There are many truths 

about the landscape of Africa. 

Barbara Murray writes about 

the honest response to one 

such truth in the work of one of 

Zimbabwe's most resilient painters 

Jean Hahn : 

impressionist of Africa 

" is not. and never has been, hut an 
affair of a piercing eye and an al>le hand." 

Frank McEwen wrote this in his introduc- 
tion to the 1968 Eleventh Annual Show at 
the National Gallery. While one may argue 
that he ignored the passionate heart, 
inquiring mind and intense spirit, there is 
something in what he said which much of 
the modern art world has forgotten. 
McEwen went on: "How more endearing 
they (the works selected for the annual) are 
than laboriously academic exercises or the 
amateuresque 'pretties' which might in 
'mind' and matter have materialised in 
Welwyn Garden Cir\- some time between the 
wars. They are more meaningful also than 
echoes of the last decade of Paris or New 
York 'trivialism '. It is the art here, on this 
ground, born from the bowels of ancient 
Africa, that will tell in time. and. like 
Papenfus. Paul. Wood or Hahn ... reflect 
directly an inner power." 

The 'pretties' he was referring to were the 
msasa, jaearanda and Matopos landscapes 
that proliferated in Rhodesia at the time, 
equivalents of which have done such a 
disservice to landscape painting throughout 
the world. In Jean Hahn's work, McEwen 
recognised the realisation of one of the 
many possible true reflections of Africa. 
There is indeed nothing academic, labori- 
ous, amateur, picturesque, pretty or trivial in 
the work of Jean Hahn. With her restrained 
palette of bleached-out -yellows, warm earth 
red-browns, greys and her economic line, 
Hahn captures a vital spirit of place and a 
direct expression of nature which anyone 
who has visited the bush of Zimbabwe 
cannot fail to recognise. 

Jean Hahn first exhibited in Zimbabwe in 
1957 and for 38 years she has remained true 
to her own spontaneous responses to the 
landscape of Africa. Critics over the years 
have spoken of her fast and capable 
technique using mainly oil or wash drawing: 
one wrote that her paintings were like "a 
breath of fresh air at a gunner 's smoker!" 
He went on: "Her style is brisk and clean, 
her drawing incisive and her eye... keen." 
When she exhibited in Pretoria in 1968, the 
critic wrote: "so assured in her use of line, 
so able to discard the inessentials in 
catching the mood of places... a fascinating 
combination of discipline and freedom... the 
authority of the artist who knows exactly 
what she is after and how to achieve the 

James Roberts, critic for The Herald wrote 
in 1 987: "Not many artists can capture a 
landscape 's mood like Jean Hahn. She 
makes something distinctive out of what 
many of us thought of as commonplace. 
And by a restricted use of colour she 
intensifies atmosphere. There is a beauty 
here that nuiy know nothing of tenderness 
hut which we seek after for all that." 

Writing for The Financial Gazette in 1989, 
Pip Curling declared: "Jean Hahn 'sfour 
wash drawings make no compromises to 
acceptability. They are monumental in their 
realisation, vital in their execution and 
uncompromising in the stark tonality of 
their colour These are the nH>st honest 
works on the show." Curling went on to say, 
of other painters, that they "merely play with 
the landscape according to the rules of a 
game of (their) own invention", use "the 
landscape as a starting point for (their) own 

(left) Jean Hahn, Red Field, 
1985, 56 X 72cm, oil on board 

(below) Jean Hahn, Bush, 
1995, 60 X 77cm, oil on board 

OUT! self indulgence" or "miniaturise the 
landscape into colour-coded decorations. 
Pity the face of Africa that it is so used and 

Jean Hahn studied at the Royal Drawing 
School and the Chelsea School of Art in 
London as well as in Paris, Geneva and 
Frankfurt. She has exhibited at the Royal 
Academy and the Imperial Institute, 
London, as well as in Belgrade, Johannes- 
burg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, 
Grahamstown, Bulawayo and Harare. In 
1977 she had an exhibition with Brian 
Bradshaw and Robert Paul and she says, 
with a self-deprecating laugh, "/ sold better 
than them". 

If you ask Jean when she started painting 
she says with another laugh "a long time 

ago... I wouldn't like to say\" At Chelsea 
School of Art her life class was taught by 
Henry Moore, but perhaps her most influen- 
tial teacher was a woman in Switzerland 
who insisted on working "on the spot". 
Jean says: "/ never paint in a studio. I 
haven 't got a studio, never had a studio. I 
go out into the bush, always. I often sit on 
the ground in utter discomfort to get what I 
want... if I'm comfortable I don't concen- 
trate. The most difficult thing is to find the 
place... where you want to sit. If you saw 
me in the bush you 'd think I was absolutely 
cracked. I go round in circles, talking to 
myself. The light is always wrong and you 
can 't paint with the sun behind you or with 
the shadows. I've given up easels because 
tliev always collapse. If there 's a rock or 
bush or something I use that. One time 
there was such a wind I had to tie myself to 


a fence.... quite mad... and I come back 
completely exhausted. Some I do on my 
knees. I always finish my paintings on the 
spot. I never rework them. " 

Hahn has always painted the landscape. 
Travelling and living in Europe it was the 
untouched, uninhabited areas that appealed 
to her and since coming to Africa her work 
has singlemindedly concerned the raw bush, 
'7 like wide open spaces but I like to look 
into things... and always in the dry season. 
I paint the dry grass in Africa which has 
been sucking up the sun all the year, till the 
rains come. When I first came from Europe 
we lived out in the bush and I thought 
everything was terribly dry and dusty... and 
then I suddenly realised that that was 
Africa, and now I can V wait for it. I re- 
member going back to Europe, the 
was deep green and I thought it was fright- 
ful! This is a very hard country. " 

Her choice in reading is biography rather 
than novels, in painting impressionism 
rather than expressionism... the real rather 
than the fanciful. Jean goes on: "I'm cmti 
anxlhing contrived... I'm more impressionist 
I suppose. I'm against thinking too much... 
a spontaneous reaction to what's there. I 
work very fast... if I'm slow then it's a dis- 
aster Working slowly means much less con- 
centration and too much time to think. 
Thinking is dangerous I think. Many mod- 
ern painters are thinking too much. When 
you think too much you get so complicat- 
ed... it's a different way of looking. 
Dis.secting is what I don't like... taking 
apart... it becomes almost mechanical... 
maybe mechanical is not the right word, but 
not spontaneous, no feeling... I think it's 
not necessary to understand it. Once you 
start pulling .'ionu'thing apart it loses its 
magic. Magic is a bad word... .■ipirit. 
essence perhaps. But if you start iniahsing 

Jean Hahn, Darkening Hills, 1 994, 
49 X 61cm, oil on board 

it loses its magic. That 's my quarrel with 
art now... everything has to be explained. 
And I think that's a pity... 1 hate eveiything 
being dissected. It l<ills the aura, the atmos- 
phere. It's a way of seeing. Much oftliis 
talk about art is contrived." 

Other artists whose work she Ukes include 
Luis Meque, another painter whose work is 
immediate and spontaneous. Talking about 
paintings by him it turned out that those she 
didn't admire were the ones I knew he had 
reworked. "If I don't work quickly it's had it 
as far as I'm concerned... if it's worked too 
hard... anything done slowly is a disaster 
Working fast one obviously concentrates 
more... or at least I do! If I don 't do it fast I 
start thinking... thinking that it's a disaster.' 
Adda Ceiling's work is spontaneous, fast... 
and I like John Piper veiy spontaneous... 
Cezanne, yes always. Picasso, no. 
Matisse, no. Turner 's late work is wonder- 

Jean herself lives in a very ad hoc way... 
last week she kayaked down the rapids at 
Victoria Falls! Her small cottage in Harare 
contains only the bare essentials; only what 
one needs to live with a minimum of com- 
fort. Paintings and drawings are hung or 
propped everywhere, amongst books, 
papers and family photos, on the floor, on 
top of cupboards. The small garden shed is 
totally taken up by work done over the 

years. Most weeks she goes out to friends 
in some part of the country where she is 
dropped alone somewhere in the bush to 
paint. Her many trips to the bush reveal the 
extremes she will happily go to to find her 
subject. "When in the bush, I concentrate 
madly... could be surrounded by herds of 
wild animals without noticing them! Last 
year one friend I was staying with said 
' Where shall I leave you ' and I said, ' Well 
somewhere here ' and we went down to the 
Munyati River There was lots of splashing 
going on and I said, 'What's that? ' and he 
said, 'Crocs I suppose. ' Then he dropped 
me and I began painting. After a time I 
stepped back to see what I'd been doing 
and there was a loud swish and rustling in 
the bush just behind me and I looked down 
and there was a large snake. It was an 
adder of some sort and he was definitely 
warning me. I carried on but after that I 
was not so keen to go there. And there was 
another ridiculous story... years ago I went 
out with some hunters and they said, 
'Where do you want to go?' and I said, 
'Drop me here ' because they were going 
after crocs and they said they 'd come back 
in a couple of hours. And I'd seen in the 
morning a croc on the island in the middle 
of the riven So anyway they dropped me 
and that was that. And after a time I sud- 
denly noticed, on the sand, just behind me, 
large tracks! If a croc comes you know 
there's nothing you can do. Anyway I 
called the picture Crocs Around. " 

Jean can't be bothered with making an 
impression on anyone... "/ don 't want to 
express myself in painting. Nobody wants 
to know about me, at least I don 't think so. 
I don 't usually talk about my painting. I 
have always painted from an early age and 
never really philosophised about it. I dis- 
like any reference to 'contrive ' or 'style '. 
One should paint and not have 'motives ' or 
'trends' — it's all 'tendencies' in the world 
today... obviously difficult to avoid!" 

Jean Hahn' paintings reflect her character. 
They are sparse, direct and real. Her sensi- 
tive use of a restricted colour palette relies 
on truth rather than drama. There are no 
splashes of primaries to enhance or intensi- 
fy. Her art is a true and natural interpreta- 
tion accomplished with bold fluid lines; the 
subject rendered in quick, free brushwork. 
economic, vigorous and straight-forward. 
Her spaces are uncluttered, picking out the 
essentials, capturing the mood of the sparse, 
dry bush and creating in the viewer the illu- 
sion of being within that landscape. It is 
work that speaks of 'a piercing eye and an 
able hand', of honesty and integrity, of the 
dedicated life of a painter and of a love of 
the African bush. 


Seeking to broaden our conceptions, 
Tim IVIcLouglilin, lecturer in English at UZ, 

Ways of seeing the rural landscape 

The aim of this paper is to examine what relationship there may be 
between the ways rural landscapes are perceived in fiction and in 
painting by black Zimbabwean artists. A few generalisations may 
help to set our bearings: black writers in Zimbabwe, particularly in 
the 1970s, give brief rather than extended attention to the landscape, 
as though it was too obvious to dwell upon, and yet when they do 
they tend to stress the aridity of the land. White writers turn more 
deliberately to the landscape as either threatening or exotic. For 
black painters man is seldom absent from the landscape, usually 
working and always the point of attention: the painting often has a 
flat, two-dimensional emphasis. Landscapes by white painters 
seldom have people, instead an empty expansive view of untouched 
nature: trained in Western traditions they give careful attention to 
perspective, composition, light and distance. It is not possible to do 
more with these several divergencies in this brief paper than to focus 
on one area and allude to as many of the others as seem apposite. 

Before discussing particulars of the fiction and painting it is 
important to remind ourselves why the rural landscape is a recurring 
feature in much Zimbabwean art. The phenomenon is hardly 
surprising given that the vast majority of Zimbabweans live in the 
rural areas and depend on the soil for their livelihood. A more 
salient reason is that the people have a special relation with the land. 
They regard it not as just another possession, an economic commod- 
ity to be bought and sold, but as a spiritual asset "associated with the 
history of a chiefdom. with the ruling chief and with ancestral spirits 
who lived on it". ' In Shona culture the high god Mwari has ultimate 
dominion over the land and its fertility and the ancestral spirits 
together with the living community exercise ownership through 
rituals of respect and appeasement. The land is as much a source of 
spiritual as of material life, a provider of food, of protection in old 
age, and the tangible expression of the bonds between an individual, 
his tribe and his ancestors . In arts other than fiction, for example 
sculpture and painting, allusions to land are repeatedly found in 
depictions of its occupants — from the hunters of rock paintings to 
the 'spirit woman' of John HIatywayo's painting, from the stone- 
carved birds of Great Zimbabwe to the anthropomorphic and 
zoomorphic figures of more recent sculpture which evoke the 
metaphysical dimension of the land. - 

In his recent novel Bones Chenjerai Hove alludes to many of the 
above features of the landscape — its spiritual ethos, its links with 
the ancestors, its fecundity, its hospitable familiarity. Yet these 
features are given as threatened by the connng of the Settlers at the 
close of the 19th century. That threat is metaphored as a disease: the 
.Spirits speak as follows: 

"Disease has eaten into the wealth of your soil. Disease has 
eaten into the wills of your ancestors, your own fathers and 
mothers. has sucked the juice of the land you inherited 
for your children. Do not sit and drink to the comfort of your 
hearts because there is no reason for you not to rise, not to see 
the clouds of vultures in the sky. Disease crawls <m the rocks 
which ytiii have kiu>wn to sit there all the time for your protec- 
I Z tion. It has eaten into the core of the heart of the hard nuipcmi 

and the great baobab. Disease grazes the pastures like the cattle 
of your wealth. Disease flies in the sky like the that 
heralds the coming of the season of the rains. "' 

Several facets of a landscape are here, but the notion of disease 
stands against and undermines the metaphors of vitality which 
describe the landscape. The land is no longer a virile dwelling 
place. In writers earlier than Hove, this same resort to metaphor is 
repeatedly used to read the landscape as an indicator of spiritual and 
political malaise. Marechera suggests the spiritual aridity brought 
about by colonialism and the concommitant struggle to stay alive in 
this description, which together with its metaphoric thrust also has a 
strong visual impact which might well be conveyed in painting. He 
is describing his home near Rusape: 

"There was not a green blade of grass left. There was not a 
green leaf of hope left; the drought had raised its great red hand 
and gathered them all and with one hot breath had .swept all the 
leaves into a red dot on the pencil-line of the horizon... " ■* 

But not every landscape in novels by black writers is so desolate. 
The perspectives so far di.scussed often belong to young adults, or at 
least to people who question the world and attempt to make sense of 
it. In some fiction the innocent eye of the child sees Zimbabwean 
landscape as hospitable, even comforting, as in this description by 
the young girl Tambudzai in Nervous Conditions: 

"The road wound down by the fields where there were always 
people with whom to pass ten minutes of the day... admiring the 
broad-leafed cdiundance of the maize crop when it was good... 
And although the stretch of road between the fields and the 
terminus was exposed to the sun and was, from September to 
April, except when it rained, harsh and .scorching so that the 
glare frimi the sand scratched at your eyes, there was always 
shade by the fields where clumps of trees were deliberately left 
standing to shelter us when we ate our meals or rested between 
cultivating strips of the land. " ^ 

What Tambud/.ai sees is a fertile scene in which the predominant 
feature is the people. 

A constructive start to comparing landscape in fiction and painting 
can be made by rcnnnding ourselves of some slrcnglhs and limita- 
tions endemic to the two art forms. For example the plastic arts 
have a much more stimulating visual impact than the written word. 
Painting provokes emotional and imaginative responses by the direct 
visual appeal of colour, forin and line. Against this it can be argued 
that the words of fiction, while not having that immediacy of 
impact, allow for a more comprehensive release of the imagination. 
Another difierence is that the serial inanner in which language lakes 
the reader from sentence to sentence and page to page achieving a 
cuiTiulative rather than a single frame experience means that images 
can be successively employed and certain verbal associations 
developed for symbolic and llicmalic purposes. A painter can 
achieve \ isual ellccls of rin thm by repetitions of colour or shapes 

in Zimbabwean fiction and painting 

and of brush strokes but cannot use the serial effects of fiction. 
The emotional impact of his work, and painting is to do primarily 
with the expression of feehng. rehes on the way he uses the space 
of the canvas, colour, shapes, structures, relationships." Conse- 
quently painting is less authoritative over its audience's response 
than fiction. It shows rather than tells its viewer what is happen- 
ing and therefore has more free play with its audience's re- 
sponses than fiction; it is more elusive about meanings. 

In asking how black Zimbabwean painters see the rural landscape 
we need to remember that the medium itself presumes an attention 
to textures, grain, colour, lines and shapes. Zimbabwean painters 
seem particularly attracted to the resources of the medium to convey 
vitality in the landscape. To expand on this I want to look mainly at 
work by two painters — Kingsley Sambo and John Hlatywayo. 

Kingsley Sambo (1932-77?) is that tragic figure of Zimbabwean art 
who started as a cartoonist, achieved flashes of brilliance with his 
paint brush, who continued to paint after UDI when many others 
gave up for want of materials, who has two paintings hanging in the 
Museum of Modern Art in New York, and who disappeared from his 
home in 1977 at the height of the liberation war, to be found dead 
some time later. He has a pertinence to this study not simply 
because he was raised and eventually retired to that same part of 
Zimbabwe as Marechera evokes in his fiction; he produced most of 
his landscapes in the 1970s when two interesting developments were 
taking place — a new generation of black writers was beginning to 
publish and talented painters like Thomas Mukarobgwa and Joseph 
Ndandarika were turning to sculpture. When Smith declared UDI in 
1965 one of the consequences was such a shortage of painting 
materials that many black artists, some of them with the outstanding 
ability of Charles Fernando, gave up altogether. Sambo persevered 
on his farm in the eastern region at Dewa. 

Sambo usually paints in oils on moderate sized canvases. The paint 
is applied thickly with fluid rounded strokes giving an impression of 
energetic movement. His Walking in the Forest has a figure in the 
lower left foreground walking through the landscape. There is no 
attempt at naturalist detail. Most of the canvas is filled with the 
fluid rhythmical shapes of the trees in sombre looming colours — 
greys, blues, browns. The light is subdued with the figure distin- 
guishable mainly by the more vertical brush strokes, not by a 
contrast of colour. This gives the impression of the figure being a 
product of and assimilated into the landscape. The lighter colours of 
the top of the tree-line blend in with the sky with its gentle pinks and 
greys combined with lively yellows and reds. The effect of the 
blending of the figure with the vegetation and that with the sky is to 
suggest a vast vibrant landscape into which man fits unobtrusively. 

People fill Sambo's better known paintings of urban life, such as his 
oil on paper Dance (1962). The same is true of much urban 
township painting. But what happens in Sambo's rural landscapes 
such as Walking in the Forest or later in Countryside (1973) is that 
people are as it were absorbed into the landscape, reduced in size, 
but nevertheless there at the heart of the strong colours and thick 

rhythmical brush strokes. People are living there, a small human 
presence in a world which extends away from them beyond the 
frame of the canvas. As in Walking in the Forest the structure of the 
work suggests extension beyond the canvas rather than closure. 

Sambo's landscapes convey nothing of what Marechera calls "a 
desert place, an earth of piercing heat" . The rounded brush-work, 
the rhythm of the strokes and the range of strong colours, reminis- 
cent of Van Gogh whom he admired, evoke a latent even kinetic 
energy in the landscape. ' The effect is similar to that in work by his 
older contemporary Mukarobgwa. His painting Where I Used to Go 
with My Cattle (1961) presents the landscape as a richly coloured 
molten flowing interweave of terrains. The curt bold brush strokes 
evince his desire to follow "the rolling motion of the hills" . ^ 
Sambo's landscapes are full of a similar rhythmical motion. As the 
English painter John Craxton says of his own landscapes, "the whole 
dances with a static movement" . ■* One critic has said of Sambo, "he 
was driven by an extraordinaiy dynamism and the need to put his ' 

soul into his paintings" . '° I take this to mean that the paintings are 
a way of talking about his attachment — emotional and perhaps 
spiritual — to the fluid energy and strength of the land, and by 
extension, of Zimbabwe. 

This point becomes clearer if we compare landscapes by white 
painters like Alice Balfour (d. 1936) and others who are fascinated 
by the vast unpeopled spaces which they see. Much attention, 
particularly in water-colour painting, goes into the brush-work 
details of long winter grass or aloes, contorted shapes of branches, 
and attention to light in expansive skies. Stillness is a common 
effect. So too in the oil paintings of say Robert Paul who in Inyanga 
Landscape ( 1952) is concerned with the structure, solid shapes and 
colour planes of the landscape, not its naturalistic details; the 
undoubted achievement of Paul's paintings emanates from the 
physical rather than the spiritual. 

There is an underlying stance towards the land seen in white 
painting, even in the huge detailed oil paintings of the early explorer 
Thomas Baines (1820-75); so often the landscape is empty of 
people; the painter confronted by an unfamiliar face of nature is 
awe-struck. The challenge for the artist is to fashion it. capture it 
within the frame of his canvas, to fix his artistic authority upon its 
wonders. Painting becomes an extension of the will and power to 

John Hlatywayo (b. 1928) differs in many ways from Sambo; 

notably he is much more explicit than either Sambo or fiction 

writers about a spiritual presence in the landscape, and this shows 

not least in his use of colours and his brush-work. His work 

Approaching the Light, a mixed media study of several figures 

facing a treed landscape, evokes questions about who these figures 

are. The figures have their long draped backs turned to the viewer 

while they look towards dark trees which stand in a field of yellow 

light. Use of yellow and white in contrast to the dark browns 

suggest this is a painting about hope, or at least better times. The 

very ab.sence of precision provokes the viewer to questions about I O 

John HIatywayo, Waiting for News, 
C.I 970, 91 X 123cm, oil on board 

symbolism. Whatever the painting means it works with darkness on 
the verge of or meeting light. The people are facing the promise of a 
freshly invigorated landscape. 

Paintings by HIatywayo come closer than do Sambo's to a meta- 
phoric perception of the land already noticed in the fiction. His 
reverence for the landscape as a place of spiritual life is evident in 
the broad straight movement of his brush as in his use of light. 
Sambo by contrast works metonyinically. Every facet of his 
impressionistic canvas connects in an ever expanding linkage of 
colour and shape. In their different ways both offer us a much more 
positive view of the landscape to that seen in the fiction. Neither 
sees the land as arid physically or spiritually. What they remind us 
is that the land is a potent presence that absorbs and contextualises 
man. In this sense these paintings offer an endearing view that 
complements the view of fiction. The reverse side of fictional 
landscapes, their positive potential finds expression in the paintings. 
The vitality often absent in the fictional landscape is present in the 

Kingsley Sambo, Country Side, c.1965, 66 x 93cm, 
PVA on board (PC-9400-0192) 

Kingsley Sambo, Ligfit, c.1965, 84 x 66cm, oil on canvas 
1 4 (PC-6300-0085) 

The paintings of Sambo and HIatywayo suggest a contrary but 
complementary perception of the landscape to that of writers and it 
might be argued from this that painters were less concerned to read 
the landscape politically than the writers, or at least that their 
political reading is more rooted in traditional views of the land than 
the surface appearance suggests to the writers. The point to make is 
that the materials of painting, the challenge of colour and line, have 
prompted these painters to evoke the strength, movement, potential 
of what they see rather than the absence of these things. The 
materials of the art, particularly colour, prompt the choice of what to 
paint rather than a theine or an issue. 

The paintings I have referred to are only a small part of what has 
become an enormously diverse artistic heritage, but they do suggest 
significant differences from the way landscapes are presented in 
fiction. The paintings convey the rhythmic vitality of the landscape, 
a feeling of empathy with the lurking power of the land and a 
presumption of close knit bonds between man and his physical and 
spiritual worlds. They suggest a more positive and assured ethos 
than many landscapes in fiction. The point for readers of fiction is 
not that the Spirits in Hove's Bones quoted earlier do not know 
about these positive aspects of their apparently bleak landscapes. 
Their plight is all the more harrowing because the landscapes which 
Sambo and HIatywayo give us are the landscapes the Spirits yearn 


1 Michael Bourdillon, The Shnna Peoples. Mambo Press. Gweru, 1976. 

2 For analysis of these figures see Marion Arnold. Zimbabwean Stone 
Sculpture. Books of Zimbabwe. Bulawayo. 1981. 

3 Chenjerai Hove, Bones, Baobab Books. Harare. 1988. 

4 Damhudzo Marechera, Hmise of Hunger. Heinemann. London. 1978. 

5 Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions. ZPH. Harare, 1988. 

6 Thomas Bodkm. The Approach to Painliufi. Collins, London, 194."!. 

7 Jamila Hava, "Kingsley Sambo: .\ Retrospective View." Insight. Sepleniher 

8 Frank Mcbwen, "Inlrodiiction", New Art from Rhoilesia. Commonwealth 
Institute, London, 196.V 

9 John Cra.Mon ciled by Malcolm Yorke. The Spirit of Place: Nine Neo- 
Rimumtic Artists ami their Times. CoiKVMc. London, 1988. 

10 The Herald. Harare, Lt May 1984. 

Editorial nole 1 ; I'lie complele paper was first published m Commonwealth \o\ 
14 no 2 1992. Unforlunalely a shortened version is presented here due lo l.ick of 
space. Anyone wishing lo read the full text can conlaci the editor, 

i-.ditorial note 2: The paintings discussed were not available for photi>giaplnng so 
we have used other examples of the artists' work which we thought most relevant 
Numbers in brackets are data tags for the National Gallery's PernianenI 

Affectionately known as Thomas Mu, 

Thomas Mukarobgwa^ is a long-standing member 

of the art community in Zimbabwe. 

Pip Curling looks at his work & life in art over 40 years. 

Thomas Mukarobgwa: 
memories of nature 

Thomas Mukarobgwa, (title unknown), 1995, 61 x 61cm, oil on canvas 

Thomas Mu decided to be an artist when he 
sold his first painting for £40 to Frank 
McEwen in 1957. As a young man. Thomas 
Mu worked as a cleaner in the old Palace 
Theatre in Salisbury. One June day in 1956 
he walked past the building site of the new 
Rhodes (later the National) Gallery and 
stopped to look. A black-bearded man who 
was Frank McEwen the newly appointed 
Director of the gallery, looked out at him. 
Thomas smiled and Frank beckoned him in. 
This meeting of two men, each in search of 
his own dream, was to result in an unprec- 
edented explosion of art. McEwen dreamed 
of finding the art of the people of this 
country. Thomas Mu dreamed of something 
beyond his life as a cleaner A deep 
friendship grew between them. While they 
walked together in the bush. Thomas taught 
Frank the ways of the Shona people. Frank, 
in turn, encouraged Thomas to translate his 
personal and cultural experience into colour 
on canvas. He also asked Thomas to recruit 
other young men to join the National 
Gallery and become fledgling artists of his 
'Workshop School'. - 

Born in 1924 near Rusape, Thomas Mu was 
raised by his uncle, a rural farmer The 
young Thomas, like all Shona boys, herded 
the family cattle in the hills and granite 
outcrops. He spent the long hours absorb- 
ing the ways of nature and the behavior of 
animals while he played the songs of the 
bush on his chipendan. ' He recalls places 


Thomas Mukarobgwa, 
Adam & Eve, 1964, 
70 X 100cm, 
oil on canvas 


where people used to sit and "look into the 
ground in the early morning". His early 
understanding of nature and his faith in its 
perfection is that which motivates all his 
creativity. Painting is for him a recollection 
and a re-creation of a particular moment in a 
special place. He says, "When you remem- 
ber something in your painting it stays with 

McEwen shunned the idea of formal tuition 
in his Workshop School. He provided 
materials and required from the artists a 
commitment to discovering their personal 
expressive means. ^ Thomas Mu found his 
own way of handling paint; applying it 
generously to the canvas in long often 
parallel brushmarks of juxtaposed and 
interwoven pure colour In his paintings, 
form is overwhelmed by colour. Where the 
colours of his landscapes might look unreal 
or contrived, they are no less than a 
distillation of the prismatic purity and the 
brilliant seasonal hues of the bush Thomas 
knew as a child. Resonant colour recreates 
the essence of the soil, the rocks, water and 
foliage as he says, "mostly when the country 
is heautiful". 

In Thomas Mu's paintings, people and 
animals encounter each other in the mystical 
mountainous landscape of his home in the 
Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The story 
at the heart of each work recalls a time 
when people were in a pure state of oneness 
with the land, animals and the spirit world. 
Frank McEwen said of Thomas Mu, "For 
years our best painter, he is a master of folk 
knowledge and ancient myth, a linguist, a 
musician, and a respected sage." 

When McEwen discovered the aesthetic 
potential of stone sculpture in local 
serpentine, he promoted it as the authentic 
art form of the country. Thomas Mu, like 
all the Workshop School artists, turned to 
that medium. Stone, for Thomas Mu is 
essentially another canvas. He translates 
the sensuousness of his painted brushmark 
into the surface texture of the stone. Where 
colour activates his paintings, the play of 
light on the subtlely articulated surface of 
the stone, animates his sculptures. His 
chisel caresses the raw material of his 
sculpture with delicate, shallow carving to 
reveal the inner life of stone. Humans and 
animals merge into the stone which is their 
shared spiritual home. From the time of his 
boyhood, Thomas Mu remembers that 
"Sometimes when y(ni come across a rock, 
you can feel your hair moving and the 
shadows welcome yin< to rest." 

Thomas Mu, unlike all the other "first 
generation' stone sculptors has no follow- 
ers. It would not be possible for another 
artist to access the empathy which exists 
between his soul and that of the stone. He 
has no "style" or "manner" which is 
reproducible. His revelation of life through 
art is too intimate and personal to encourage 

Thomas Mu has remained faithful to the 
National Gallery where he still works. He 
exhibits and .sell his sculpture in the 
National Gallery Sales Gallery. It is all but 
impossible to see his paintings. With the 
posl-indepcndcnce rush of dealers in stone 
sculpture, Thomas Mu the painter was 
neglected by the art market in this country. 
Recently he came to the attention of a 

British art dealer who now has unrivalled 
control over his paintings. As quickly as the 
paint dries on the canvas, the work is 
shipped out of the country. His dealer 
supplies all his paint and canvas and each 
work is bought at a fixed agreed price 
according to size. He does not ask what 
happens to his work once it leaves him or 
what price it fetches wherever it is sold. 
Money is not important to him he says, only 
the freedom to have the materials to 
continue to paint. 

The National Gallery has a representative 
collection of the early paintings of Thomas 
Mu but none of his later work. In July this 
year, Thomas Mu was sponsored by Stanbic 
as an Artist in Residence at the Standard 
Bank National Arts Festival in 
Grahamstown, South Africa. There he 
painted, played his chipendan and spoke 
about his work and its philosophical 
meaning. It is ironic that Thomas Mu is 
today known in South Africa, collected in 
Britain, but is relatively unknown as a 
painter in his own country. 


1 The artist's name is variously spelt Mukarobgwa, 
Mukarombwa or Mukaromba. 

2 The early artists of the Workshop School were 
employed as attendants at the National Gallery where 
they painted and carved in the basement. 

.1 The chipemlan is a single stringed bowed ntusical 
instrument with a gourd as a resonator It is held in 
the mtnith while the string is plucked. 

4 ()t the group of young painters who included the 
two Ndandarika brothers Joseph and Luca. as well as 
Charles F-'ernandu. only Thomas Mu has survived as 
a painter 

5 Numbers in brackets refer to the recent identifying 
data tag given to all works in the National Gallery's 
Permanent Collection. 


Dear Editor, 

I read with interest the responses from staff 
and students of the Harare Polytechnic art 
department to your editorial in Gallery 2 
and sympathise with the writers over the 
negative perceptions often expressed 
concerning the department's status. The 
correspondents proceed to attempt to justify 
their department's existence by negating 
aspects of the Regional School of Art and 
Design (RSAD) proposal and by adopting a 
'them versus us' stance. Particular vehe- 
mence is aimed at the two preliminary 
studies carried out. Far from being a waste 
of resources, such studies are essential. It is 
naive to assume that a proposal such as 
RSAD could gain credibility or attract 
financial backing without a thorough study 
of the relevant needs and issues. 

The RSAD initiative was launched by the 
late Director of the National Gallery, 
Professor Cyril Rogers, in 1986. The 
following year a Netherlands consulting 
agency produced a feasibility study which 
endorsed the need for RSAD but reported 
only on Zimbabwe citing the inclusion of 
reports from other Sadc countries as too 
time consuming. In March 1991, 1 was 
appointed Project Manager for RSAD under 
an agreement between the European 
Community and the Zimbabwe Govern- 
ment. The terms of reference noted the 
need for 'a thorough qualitative and 
quantitative investigation within both the 
public and private sectors of Sadc in 
relation to the demand for a visual art 
training facility.' 

A comprehensive study of the visual arts, 
their teaching modalities and employment 
potential within the Sadc region was a 
primary requisite. How could we construct a 
regional art school when we did not know 
what our neighbours had to offer, what their 
thoughts were about the project or what 
their contemporary visual arts culture 
consisted of? 

During the course of the study over 400 
people were consulted representing the 
opinion of almost 200 government depart- 
ments, universities, colleges, galleries and 
private companies in Angola. Botswana, 
Lesotho. Namibia. Malawi. Mozambique, 
Swaziland. Tanzania, Zambia. Zimbabwe, 
South Africa, Britain and the USA. Several 
hundred other people were consulted by 
means of questionnaires. The Harare 
Polytech was amongst those consulted and 
valuable ideas were exchanged with Sharon 
Dutton and other members of staff. 

When I started my contract the project had 
the support of two influential and commit- 
ted educationalists. Fay Chung. Minister of 
Education and Culture, and Cyril Rogers. 

During the next two years Cyril Rogers 
passed away and Fay Chung was removed 
from her post. Without them, the project 
has not developed as well as was hoped, and 
no other influential person has so far shown 
any commitment. 

One great impediment was the delay in 
securing a suitable tract of land from the 
Harare City Council. Following the 
withdrawal of the originally allocated site in 
July 1992, an alternative was selected and a 
formal request for usage of the land 
submitted to Harare City Council in 
September 1992. Despite frequent commu- 
nication with the City Council during and 
after my contract, a response to the request 
is to date still being awaited from the 
Council and its parent Ministry of Local 
Government by the National Gallery. With 
some leverage and forcefulness from the 
top, the land issue could have been resolved 
without delay and the school by now could 
have commenced construction. 

As long ago as mid 1992 the Bulawayo City 
Council indicated that it was willing to 
donate a piece of land. Despite the fact that 
a donation of land was never on Harare City 
Council's agenda and that their dithering 
had seriously delayed the project, certain 
officials in the then Ministry of Education 
and Culture would not hear any suggestion 
of the project going to Bulawayo. 

The findings and recommendations of my 
final report, presented in March 1994, were 
intended to maximise the potential of the 
proposed school and to ensure the relevance 
of training to be offered. The rationale 
behind the RSAD project rests firmly within 
the needs of the region for an institution 
focusing on the advancement of the region's 
visual arts, the development of art theory 
and history and the training of artists, art 
teachers and designers. The potential of art 
as a channel for employment, income 
generation and development remains 
relatively untapped and unexplored. 
Graduates of the school would help nurture 
a fresh perception of art in the region and 
create a visual language and theoretical base 
which would articulate an indigenous view 
of African art history and practice. 

RSAD was never intended to supplant any 
existing visual art institution but rather to 
complement them. The RSAD would differ 
from existing facilities in the following 

1. The RSAD is intended as a regional 
facility whose character would be shaped by 
the iteraction of the cultures and traditions 
within Sadc. Existing training institutions 
are largely national in character. 

2. The RSAD would be independent and 

self-governing which would afford it more 
flexibility in respect of policy and structure 
to meet the shifting needs of the future. 

3. Existing art training facilities in the 
region are typically small, specialised and 
uneconomic. The RSAD would include 
theory, history and training of artists, art 
teachers and designers. 

4. The RSAD is intended to address specific 
areas such as theory and history. A research 
facility within RSAD would draw together 
researchers who would begin the task of 
documenting our own history of art. 

5. The RSAD would address the complaints 
of education ministries throughout the 
region concerning the lack of well trained 
teachers to ensure that art is properly and 
more generally taught in our school systems. 

6. The RSAD would address the limited 
scope of indigenous graphic design, 
packaging and advertising by bringing 
together the best designers, lecturers, 
students and ideas from the region. 

7. The RSAD would serve as a focal point 
for other cultural pursuits by affording 
concert facilities, gallery space, a confer- 
ence venue and the like predicated on its 
regional character. 

The aim to build a Regional School of Art 
and Design is attainable and needs only 
courage and resolve to see it through. It is 
therefore discouraging to see a member of 
the Board of the National Gallery (and 
incidentally an ex-lecturer of the Harare 
Polytech) being quoted as saying that she 
believes the RSAD is unnecessary. Does 
this sentiment reflect the mood of the Board 
of the National Gallery as a whole? If it 
does we may as well pack away our 
aspirations and settle for more of what we 
already have, which in my and many other 
people's opinion is not enough. If we set 
our sights low enough and undersell our 
hopes for the future then we should not cry 
when development and advancement pass us 

In the meantime the Harare Polytechnic art 
department staff may feel a sense of relief to 
hear that, in the seeming absence of interest 
in the RSAD project from Harare, an action 
group has been formed in Bulawayo to see 
whether the project, in full or modified 
form, might not now be transferred to the 
country's second city. Recently opening 
Amakhosi's Township Square Cultural 
Centre in Makokoba, the Town Clerk of 
Bulawayo, Mike Ndubiwa, indicated that 
Bulawayo was on its way to becoming the 
cultural capita! of the country. The Regional 
School of Art and Design might just fit in 
nicely with that plan. 

Stephen Williams, former Project Manager/ 
Consultant SADC RSAD project 1 7 

While the visual arts and culture in Zimbabwe get consistently sidelined 
(most recently with a Government directive demanding that our 'National' 
Gallery become financially self-sufficient through its sales shop), Margaret 
Garlake writes from a society that recognises the importance of its arts 

Letter from London 

Directors of public galleries, unlike theatre 
managements, make a big effort for the 
peak tourist season: at the beginning of 
August, London had a feast of first-rate 
exhibitions, all deservedly clamouring for 
attention. One of the most improbable was 
at Hackney Hospital, once a workhouse, 
recently a psychiatric hospital and now 
scheduled for demolition. In the interim, a 
team of artists set up installations in the 
empty wards, corridors and departments. 
Video, paintings, piles of mattresses, 
distorting mirrors, nesting boxes, a lift 
transformed into a padded cell combined, 
though no individual piece was outstanding, 
to create a sense of acute unease and 
dislocation. To wander at random through 
an almost empty hospital — a few patients 
remain — is a peculiarly transgressive act. 
calling into question the boundaries of 
freedom and restraint, madness and sanity, 
and the role of the artist as our social 

Back in the centre of town, the Hayward 
Gallery had one of those shows so logical 
that one was amazed that it had never been 
done before. 'Landscapes of France — 
Impressionism and Its Rivals' set Impres- 
sionist paintings against the vast and little- 
known canvases of castles, wounded stags 
and above all, landscapes characteristic of 
the mid- 19th century, to reveal how the 
revolutionary new art movement developed 
within the safe taste and cut-throat competi- 
tion of the annual Salon. The Salon, which 
drew enormous crowds, set the terms of 
normative taste: landscape was very 
popular, often symbolic, conveying a sense 
of permanence: even if the subject is a ruin 
or a seascape, the paint is solid and indi- 
cates a sense of graviias. 

Monet and his friends showed in the Salon 
even while they were edging towards the 
small, fresh, sketchy paintings that focussed 
on the informal, the impermanent, celebrat- 
ing the delights of the ordinary, as well as 
the trains and new roads that promised 
modernity and mobility. By restoring 
Impressionism to its unfamiliar roots in the 
19th century French artworld, 'Landscapes 
of France' emphasised its extraordinary 
radical prescience of change and demanded 
a new appreciation of the Salon paintings 
that we have rejected for so long. 

The South Bank art complex, to which the 
Hayward belongs, is itself in something of a 
1 8 state of flux. Richard Rogers Partners were 

the winners of last year's 
competition for a remodelled 
South Bank. Their scheme 
involves an elegantly 
undulating clear canopy that 
runs parallel to the river, 
entirely covering the 
Hayward and its immediate 
neighbours. It swoops 
dramatically down to frame 
the Festival Hall, where it 
will mercifully require the 
demolition of a Sixties' 
terrace that slices the facade 
in half horizontally. Hold 
your breath and wish hard — 
it may even happen. 

Not far away, across the 
river at the Tate, was an 
extended reverie on the 
imminent passing of our 
own century. 'Rites of 
Passage', subtitled 'Art for 
the End of the Century', brought together 
artists seldom seen in London, from the 
venerable Louise Bourgeois to the young 
Pole, Miroslaw Balka. It succinctly 
demonstrated the forms through which 
today's innovators communicate: mainly 
installation and video. The nearest it came 
to painting were John Coplans' immense 
photographs of parts of his own body, in 
extreme and unambiguous close-up. Artists 
have always scrutinised the human body, 
often in its less lovely aspects: it is the 
conjunction of new media with the develop- 
ment of recent critical theory of 'the body' 
that makes today's focus feel like a tidal 

In order to view Mona Hatoum's Corps 
Elmnger, you stand in a small domed 
cubicle around a screen set in the floor, on 
which a video film runs. It traces a journey 
through the interior of the artist's body, 
made by inserting micro-cameras into 
various orifices. Accompanied by a 
magnified sound track of the same interior, 
it was oddly compelling. The arrangements 
arc more or less the same for all of us, yet 
they were almost entirely unrecognisable, 
as if that 'foreign body' had been trans- 
posed into our own familiar envelopes of 
flesh and features. 

As for the riles of passage', the deep theme 
of the show was to propose the ccntrality of 
the artist as one who articulates and 
celebrates the rituals, both personal and 

Hamad Butt, Familiars Part 3: Cradle 

(detail), 1992, Chlorine, glass, steel 

wire and white paint 

communal, that mark our transitions from 
one state of being to another. Art stands, in 
this construction, on the edge of the known, 
the safe and the acceptable; its role is to 
make us see the world differently. Balka's 
Remembrance of the First Holy Commun- 
ion was a life-size tableau of the event that 
conventionally marks, for Catholics, a 
threshold between infancy and childhood 
and a ritualised step towards the adult 
world. It is complicated by the replacement 
of the handkerchief in the breast pocket by 
a heart-shaped red pin-cushion into which 
visitors to the first showing, in an aban- 
doned house in Poland, were mutely invited 
to stick the pins with which they were 

This ritual was omitted at the Tate; nor 
were the full iinplications of Hamid Butt's 
Familiars Part 3: Cradle fully spelled out. 
The product of his fascination with alcheiny 
and its position on the borders of magic and 
science, Christianity and heresy, its great 
glass bubbles were filled with chlorine gas. 
The Tate had in place a complex evacuation 
procedure should one be broken: the 
implications ol the hazard inherent in the 
Miargmal position encapsulated in Butt's 

No such dangers altemlcd 'Drawing the 
Line' at the Whitcchapel Art CJallery. 

Henri Matisse, Buste de femme (SIrene), 

1950, 63.5 X 49.2cm, Chinese ink and brush 

(Courtesy Lumley Cazalet Ltd, London) 

Ananged by the artist Michael Craig- 
Martin, it was an exploration of the visual 
eloquence of the drawn line from prehistory 
to Matisse, Leonardo to Lichtenstein. 
Seriously and anarchically ahistorical. it 
was hung with immense sophistication and 
knowledge to demonstrate a visual logic 
that united Tintoretto and Malevich, Ingres 
and Agnes Martin; a logic that transcended 
subject matter to present drawing as an act 
of human communication more profound 
than words. 

The most respected of London dealers, 
Annely Juda, devoted her summer 
show to a most resonant and ail- 
too historical moment. '1945 — 
The End of the War" (arranged in 
collaboration with the Denise 
Rene Gallery in Paris and the 
Galerie Hans Mayer in 
Dusseldorf) was a collection of 
70-odd avant-garde pieces "to 
show what was happening during 
this memorable year in history", as 
she explained in her introduction. 
Its linages ranged from a tiny, 
poignant figure of a prisoner enineshed 
in barbed wire to lyrical depictions of the 
serene Sussex landscape; from a Calder 
mobile to a Picasso still life with a skull, 
grimly redolent of Paris under the Occupa- 
tion. They were, as so often in this gallery, 
nearly all of exceptional quality and 
poignantly evoked the terror, the sadness 
and the invincible optimism of 1945. 

Forthcoming excitements include the 
opening of "Africa: The Ail of a Continent" 
at the Royal Academy in October, as the 
centrepiece of Africa "95. Ancillary 
exhibitions focussing on contemporary 
African art and photography, new art from 
South Africa, textiles, calligraphy and 
metalwork will keep us running around the 
country, a.s well as conferences, music. 
film, theatre and literary events. 

The Turner Prize shortlist — the anworld"s 
equivalent of the Booker — is intensively 
scrutinised at this time of every year. The 
current shortlist consists of Mona Hatoum, 
Galium Innes, who makes large refined 
sparse abstract paintings. Mark Wallinger. a 
figurative painter much of whose witty and 
accessible work concerns his llesh and 
blood race horse called A Real Work of Art. 
and. for the second lime. Damien Hirst — 

he of the pickled sheep. The Turner Prize 
provokes passionate debate for and against: 
'too much money"; 'not enough women"; 
'it's all conceptual' or alternatively, 
'encourages young artists"; ditto 'new 
media" ; 'makes people aware of contempo- 
rary art". To have two painters shortlisted is 
unusual and a pleasing rebuff to the 
frequently intoned 'painting is dead"; the 
Prize also focusses aspiration, brings vast 
numbers of visitors to the Tate — still 
ht)nourably free to all — and singularly 
entertains us. 

The problem with much contemporary art is 
its immense size, far beyond the domestic 
scale. In order to house it. the Tate is 
developing a redundant power station on the 
South Bank opposite St Paul's Cathedral. 
Bankside Power Station, not madly 
distinguished aesthetically was only 
completed in 1963 and was 
decommissioned 18 years later. In the first 
phase of the conversion planned by the 
Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre 

de Meuron. tonnes of redundant scrap metal 
machinery are now being removed from its 
guts, the sale of scrap metal apparently 
nicely filling the financial gulf before the 
flow of millenium funds begins. 

We are all millenarians now, if still not sure 
in which year it will take place: this issue, 
which is significant at least to the manufac- 
turers of fireworks, has become a matter of 
furious and dotty debate in correspondence 
columns. Like the new Tate building, we 
are all in transitional condition and the 
marginality of the Bankside location, in a 
rundown area of south London, parallels the 
relationship between the new art seen in 
■Rites of Passage" and the wider culture. 
The certainty is that today "s outrageously 
new art will be absorbed as readily as the 
new museum will be incorporated into its 
soon-to-be regenerated locality. A little 
over a century ago those now revered artists 
and blue-chip bastions of the modern art 
market, the Impressionists, were in the same 



Horizons / Perspectives, Stephen Williams, Mpapa 
Gallery, Lusaka, June 1995 

The recent exhibition by Zimbabwean painter Stephen Wilhams at 
Lusaka's Mpapa Gallery was uneven but included soine exceptional 
oils as well as sensitively-rendered watercolours. Known for his 
large abstract canvases. Williams was by circumstances confined to 
small and mid-si/ed works. He clearly expresses himself most 

Reviews of recent work 

The Image, Therese Houyoux, 
Gallery Delta, July 1995 

Over the years Zimbabweans have seen the 
work of many European artists most of 
whom express the angst of urbanised 
mankind. Therese Houyoux "s works. 
executed with delicate precision, by 
piercing, cutting, folding and inking layers 
of Java paper, could not be more different. 
She offered us a meditation, in subtle greys. 
blacks and whites, on a fundamental image 
of life. She integrates the primary biologi- 
cal structure of the shell, the leaf, the spiral 
of growth, the fertile female, into one image 
which, through repeating echoes of its form, 
dissolves and mingles with the shadows and 
markings around it. Rendered calm by the 
nature of the work, the spaces of Gallery 
Delta led naturally along a progression 
through the developing images, each one 
subtlety different, playing gently with the 
intricate allusions and endless variations 
possible within the single form. Music and 
mathematics underpin Houyoux' work and 
one viewer likened the exhibition to Bach's 
music with its delicate, measured and subtle 
variations. BM 

We were able to see this work from Geneva 
thanks to the long friendship between Helen 
Lieros and Therese Houyoux. Helen Lieros 
wrote of the work; "7 have been privileged 
to witness over a time span of 30 years the 
research, the pictorial discoveries of 
Therese Houyoux. The different develop- 
ments where the human element disap- 
peared to merge with its environment and to 
re-appear no longer as a particular person, 
place, event or object, but as cm integrated 
whole where transition has been made 
evident with acute self-awareness. The skill 
to re-enact the drawings, patterns, images 
channel the power with profound quality, 
compressed energy and a sense of continu- 
ous disclosure through the media, all of 
them shaped by a peremptory statement. To 
discover and perceive, you are drawn by a 
chemistry and then all of a sudden there is a 
sense that these initiations manifest 
themselves in a sacred labyrinth, a series of 
revelations, a sense of fulfillment, an aura. " 











.",*:' \\\ 





Therese Houyoux, Image 


freely in his larger works, in this case the series pieces Kuhu and 
Makgadikgadi, each of which was striking and also succeeded as a 
group. These were the only works done in oil on paper, with which 
he was able to create, in almost calligraphic minimalism, the depth 
of the African horizon, as well as the perspective and starkness of 
its landscape. Here, his concern with metaphor and impressions of 
place spark the viewer's imagination. Using layers of subtle colour 
and washes of paint, he evokes a sense of timelessness and vast 
horizons. The acrylic paintings were more academic. They worked 
as abstract explorations of texture but left the viewer searching for 
an interpretation. The exhibition was a welcome opportunity to 
view contemporary work from a neighbouring country. Hopefully 
it will be one of many. DH 

1+1=1, Works by Rashid Jogee and Gerry Dixon, 
Gallery Delta, July 1995 

Paintings by Rashid Jogee and sculptures by Gerry Dixon recently 
filled Gallery Delta producing a powerful sense of two contrasting 
individual visions. These two artists, each in their own unique way, 
express their lives and interaction with society through their art. 
Jogee's focus is internal; his paintings, an externalising onto canvas 
of personal experiences. The great sweeps of pigment, painted and 
overpainted to stimulate imagination and enrich perception, 
allowed or encouraged to drip and flow over the surface, invite us 
into his idiosyncratic world where emotions and thoughts are 
symbolised as markings and colours. With this technique, control 
is essential to maintain communication. This is not always the 
case. The small watercolours. filled with calligraphic markings, 
capture in miniature this same spontaneous outpouring of experi- 
ence into colour. 

Gerry Dixon by contrast is more 

express his opinion about ex- 

a particular message, more 

with humour. Dixon 

our destruction of thi 

materialism, our hy- 

injustices. His piece. 

E.xisting System, 3M, 

syndrome; man 

One for the Pope. 'I 


resonances on 

when the head is 

devil's horns 

These socio-po- 

combined with 

sculpt u r a 

use of forms 

clear undcr- 

qualities of 

e X p 1 o i t e il 


Sloffer GeiliitK 

cerebral, more concerned to 

temal events. Each piece has 
often than not edged 
confronts us with 
environment, our 
pocrisies. our 
One for the 
refers to the 
money - monkey. 
Lion 's Cross. 
amongst its many 
religious hypocrisy; 
lifted it reveals two 
holding it in place, 
litical statements arc 
a fine sense o( 
counterpoint in the 
and textures, and a 
standing of the 
materials which are 

Gerry Dixon, One for the Pope, Lion's Cross 

(Below) Lines rising from a recum- 
bent figure transform into a creature 
witfi a snake's body and antelope's 
head. Marondera 

shortcomings. His own comparative 
analysis is based on months of arduous and 
meticulous tracing by both himself and a 
number of able assistants. It brings together 
a mature understanding of the nature of art 
and a knowledge of recent and contempo- 
rary San beliefs and value .systems. It thus 
offers us an insight into the perceptions and 

Arthur Azevedo will exhibit sculptures, 
drawings and graphics at Gallery Delta from 
19 September into early October. Zimba- 
bwe's master sculptor in metal shows work 
that continues his investigation into the 
structural forms of animals capturing as he 
does so succinctly and evocatively their 
inherent character. 


OJ forthcoming 

The Hunter's Vision: 

The Prehistoric Rock Art of 

Zimbabwe by Peter Garlake 

The Hunter's Vision is the product of eight 
years of study and careful recording 
of hundreds of rock art sites in the 
granite country of Mashonaland, 
Masvingo and 

Matobo districts; it is a digest 
of Peter Garlake's conclusions, 
illustrated by sites and paintings 
almost none of which has been 
published before. 

Without doubt it is a handsome book, 
well written and beautifully illus- 
trated, and the British Museum 
Press are to be congratulated on its 
layout and design. While ZPH 
must be commended for making 
such an important book available 
within Zimbabwe, I find the local 
cost of $365 very high (more 
expensive than many coffee table 
books) which will put it out of 
reach of many people. For those 
interested in Zimbabwe's unique 
Stone Age inheritance, it is well 
worth the investment. The text 
is extremely readable, with Peter Garlake's 
enthusiasm for the country and his subject 
evident throughout. Divided into an 
introduction and nine chapters, the book 
describes and analyses a long underrated 
art, and as it does so, breathes life not onl 
into the paintings, but also into the lives 
of the prehistoric San artists and the 
society in which they lived. 

This is not a guide book. In the interests 
of protecting the art from vandalism and 
theft, only the districts in which the 
individual paintings are found are 
indicated. This is of particular concern 
to the author, who considers Zimba- 
bwe's prehistoric paintings one of the 
world's last and greatest undiscovered 
cultural treasures. This does not at all 
detract from what the book sets out to 

Traditionally our rock art has been 
viewed and recorded from a 
Eurocentric viewpoint, few observers 
recognising it to be anything more than 
descriptive of the daily life of hunter- 
gatherers. Peter Garlake reviews these 
approaches, highlighting their considerable 

preoccupations of a people who lived at 
least two thousand years ago. 

The author demonstrates "thiil Scin 
art is probably as rich as any in 
allusions and evocations, 
metaphor and symbol." 
Through the idea 
that "one cannot 
read art: one 
can only 
V explore aspects 

cance" Peter 
Garlake identifies 
those aspects of 
significance to include 
images depicting trancing, 
supernatural transfor- 
# mation and potency. 
For the San, potency 
resides in the abdomen 
as an innate personal spiritual power which 
everyone possesses though few choose to 
make it active. The work demonstrates how 
these ancient artists conceived of potency as 
pervading the artists' entire surround- 
ings and that much of their painting 
seems "to be a means of delineating a 
force that permeates nature and 
land.scape" . It presents us with a 
comprehensive and coherent account ot 
the paintings as "visual realisations of 
the perceptions of the artists' societies of 
their world... Above all. they image the 
supernatural energies inherent in almost 
all living things, the forces that gave 
meaning and significance to the world, 
to life and to all human and animal 

This is an exciting document, which will 
be of especial value to artists and art 
historians, as well as to prehistorians and 
archaeologists. PJ 

The Hunter's 
Vision : The 
Prehistoric Rock 
Art of Zimbabwe 
by Peter Garlake, 
London: British 
Museum Press and 
Zimbabwe Publishing 
House, 1995, $365.00. 

and events 

The annual expose at the National Gallery, 
the Zimbabwe Heritage 1995 Exhibi- 
tion opens in November. The team of 
selectors this year have again pared the 
entries down from a mammoth 3000 plus 
and although the format and prizes will, for 
1995, follow the pattern of recent years, we 
hear that suggestions have been made to the 
gallery administration and that changes 
should hopefully occur soon which will 
attempt to regain this exhibition some of its 
previous prestige and significance. 

Adda Gelling, Simon Back and Nicole 
Gutsa will be exhibiting paintings at 
Gallery Delta in October providing some 
provocative insights into their individualis- 
tic responses to the Zimbabwean context. 
This will be Adda Geiling's last exhibition 
before she returns to Berlin to take up work 
for her Masters degree in Fine Arts. 

On the 21 November work from Henry 
Thompson's Nyanga series, some 20 
canvases which capture in resonant colour 
and bold composition the emotional and 
physical nature of a particular landscape, 
will fill the spaces at Gallery Delta. 

If you're going to California at the end of 
October, the Jessica Tress collection of 
work from Zambia, South Africa and 
Zimbabwe, including work by Gerry 
Dixon, Tapfuma Gutsa, Richard Jack, 
Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Helen 
Lieros, Luis Meque, Stephen 
Williams, Munya Mudzlma, Bernard 
Takawira and Tackson Muvezwa will be 

Dominic Benhura, Colleen 
Madamombe, Agnes Nyanhongo and 
Jonathan Gutsa are amongst sculptors 
exhibiting work in the Chapungu Annual 
'95 from I August till 26 November 

"Genesis" with work by Tapfuma Gutsa, 
Keston Beaton, Luis Meque and three 
German counterparts, Felix Droese, Jupp 
Ernst and Peer Christian Stuwe opens 
in Germany on 1 7 September 






bardwcll printers 


. -"-i^ 

No 7 

iW^ 'W 

Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Gallery magazine: 

Anglo American Corporation Services Limited 


The Rio Tinto Foundation 



Joerg Sorgenicht 
Fricdbert Lutz 


March 1996 


3 Empire's offspring 

by Anthony Chennells 

7 Scratchings at memory ; an interview with Sarah Pratt 

10 Art ... and something more 
by Adda Geiling 

12 Africa "95 — skimming the contemporary? 
by Keith Murray 

1 6 Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Cover: Berry Bickle, Pro Amore (detail). 1992, 129 x 21 Icms, 
acrylic & mixed media. Photo: Stoffer Geiling 

Left: Marisha Pels, Seswaa (detail). 1995, rubber, steel, wire & 

bone. Photo: Stephen Williams 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design & type.setting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination: HPP Studios. Printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. 
Paper: Magnoprint from Graphtec Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, c/o Gallery Delta. 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue, PO. Box UA 373 Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (14)792135. 


'■ ■ Who influenced you ? ? ' asked a young 
white Zimbabwean with a clip-board project 
for a mind. 

'Eveiyone is influenced by somebody.' 
adding the clip-board dogma (and most are 
so influenced that they never ascend to 
themselves). " 

This quote from a recent article written by 
Professor Brian Bradshaw is strikingly 
relevant to this issue of Gallery. 

Modern theory plays with the idea of the 
human being as a 'construct' of culture, 
consciously or unconsciously moulded by 
his or her social, political, ideological 
environment. Art being an expression of the 
human condition reflects this 'construction'. 

Anthony Chennells in his article looks at the 
ideological and political histories of this 
country, the resulting norms and authorities 
and their effects on art. Both perpetrators 
and "victims' of any ideology are 
'constructed' and art helps us to 
'deconstruct' ourselves and our society. The 
insight he offers could prove a useful 
exercise both for artists in considering their 
own work and for viewers. 

A review of art exhibited at Africa '95 offers 
further evidence of the influence of norms, 
authorities and change on art. and 
particularly of the power of institutions and 
curators to determine society's perceptions 
through selection and presentation of 
particular works of art — something we all 
could be more intensely aware of. 

Elaine de Kooning wrote: 

"Western art is built on the biographical 
passion of one artist for another: 
Michelangelo for Signoretli: Rubens for 
Michelangelo; Delacroix for Rubens: 
Cezanne for Poussin; the Cubists for 
Cezanne: and Picasso, the philanderer for 
anyone he sees going down the street. That 
something new in art cannot come into 
existence despite influence is a ridiculous 
idea, and it goes hand in hand with an even 
more ridiculous idea: namely that something 
totally new. not subject to any influence, can 
be created. ... Any artist, however who 
looks only into his own life for his ideas is 
still going to find the irresistible ideas of 
other artists there" 

Most artists are happy to list those whose 
work they admire and whose techniques, 
approach and even content they emulate. 
But the great point of Bradshaw's statement 
lies in that last line: 

"... most are so influenced that they never 
ascend to themselves." 

It encapsulates a basic premise of creativity 
— the ability to go beyond the known into 
the new, to take individual experience and 
make something original of it, something 
that will enable us to understand a little 
more, open our eyes to other possibilities. 
The artist needs to get beyond the constructs 
and influences, aware of them, using them or 
rejecting them, making choices to break the 

"// was not a question of knocking over other 
gods. It was a question of finding your own 
reality, your own answers, your own 
experience... We discovered a simple thing, 
yet far-reaching in its effect: 'The search is 
the discovery.' Picasso had said, I don 't 
.search. I find.' We lacked the confidence 
for such an arrogant remark. We discovered 
instead that searching was itself a way of 
art. Not necessarily a final way. hut a way" 

Within our own small system changes are 
occurring, a chance for new 'constructs' to 
have a positive effect. A director has at last 
been appointed for the Bulawayo National 
Gallery. As of the 1st of February, Stephen 
Williams is no longer just 'temporary' or 
'acting'. Events at Douslin House already 
show evidence of his knowledge of the 
regional art scene, his energy and his 
commitment to art. Hopefully, his influence 
will be felt throughout the system! 

In closing, I would like to thank, most 
wholeheartedly, Stoffer Gelling whose 
photographs have been a major contribution 
to the quality of Gallery. His generous gifts 
of time and materials have helped the 
magazine to walk its precarious financial 
tightrope. Stoffer has now returned to 
Germany with his family and we wish him 
well in all his future endeavours. 

Gallery survives and we hope this issue will 
encourage artists in Zimbabwe to examine 
their influences and 'ascend to themselves'. 

The Editor 

Sarah Pratt reveals in her interview that she 
is consciously seeking to unravel the 
'constructs' of her existence. By looking at 
her personal family background and its 
wider context as European in Africa, she is 
attempting to form some sort of 
understandable identity. 

Adda Ceiling believes that artists can affect 
and change the norms of their society by 
making work which exposes the forces that 
"construct' it. The system is there but can be 
challenged and hopefully bettered. She 
urges Zimbabwean artists to examine 
contemporary reality, to become more aware 
of the existing inlluences and to express a 
fearless interpretation of their effects. 

There is no avoiding the importance of 
influence. No one would disclaim the 
effects of Picasso on the story of art just as 
no one would refute the influence of African 
art on Picasso — the artist as influenced and 

As Picasso said: 

"Now is the lime in this period of changes 
and revolution to use a revolutionary 
manner of painting and not to paint like 

Evolution generally occurs gradually, 
experience shaping the direction of 
development. However this slow process 
can be punctuated by sudden change coming 
out of a significant realisation. Norm 
breakers in art are those who force society to 
see in a different way. We now take entirely 
for granted the breakthroughs accomplished, 
but there is always another to be made. If 
the artist is overwhelmed by the authority or 
norm, change does not occur. It demands a 
disturbing process of continuous 

Perhaps what John lerren has written is 

UNESCO bursaries for artists under 
.^."i: opportunities for practising artists to 
work at various art institutions through- 
out the world. If you want information 
ask at Gallery Delta or write to the Editor. 

In a two part article, Anthony Chennells contemplates 

the power of centres and norms in Zimbabwean art. 

This first part investigates evidence of post-colonial cultural fragmentation 

in the work of two white Zimbabwean painters. 

The second part will look at the effects of empire on the work of black 

Zimbabwean artists. 

Empire's offspring 

The Australians used to use the phrase 
Culture Cringe to describe their relationship 
with Europe. Culture Cringe implied that 
Australians were raw and unformed, their 
culture an imperfect replica of Europe's, and 
that the only way in which they could stand 
tall was by more perfectly imitating the 
metropolitan model. 

White Zimbabweans have their own 
versions of Culture Cringe. One only has to 
go to Harare antique auctions to see it 
manifesting itself. Buyers who feel no 
obligation to distinguish mukwa from 
mopani would be mortified if they confused 
walnut and oak veneers. 

In the last ten years, post-colonialism has 
become the rage in cultural studies and. 
whatever its theoretical limitations, it has 
helped to free us from a belief that the 
cultural productions of the "UK" constitute 
an ideal and that all else is an imperfect 

Post-colonialism as a theory challenges the 
idea that cultural authority can be found only 
at the centre of one of Europe's various 
empires. At its most unsatisfactory, post- 
colonialism responds to this cultural 
authoritarianism simply by asserting the 
authority of an alternative local centre: 
whatever London does Harare can do as 
well. At its more complex, however, post- 
colonialism recognises that artists at the 
peripheries of empire command perspectives 
which the metropole does not know. 

The very term post-colonial insists that all 
peoples living in the wake of empire, ruler 
and ruled, metropole and colony, are in one 
way or another the products of colonialism. 
The legacies of empire ensure that we 
pos.sess. at the very least, a double vision 
formed from our familiar Zimbabwean 
experiences as well as from the multiple 
influences, banal and serious, through which 
we have experienced outside worlds. 

Helen Lieros, Anatomy of Rock, 1992, 35 x 26cms, mixed media 

Berry Bickle. Pro Amore (triptych), 
1992, 129 X 515cms, mixed media 

The very possibility of double vision 
involves a subversion of the steady authority 
of the metropolitan gaze. If other ways of 
looking at reality are possible, then the 
authority of the centre is called into 

Cultural nationalists want the culture of the 
former colony simply to displace the culture 
of the metropole. Post-colonialism however, 
theorises an alternative to the idea of centre 
answering centre. It refuses the idea of 
centre and therefore of 'norm" itself. If the 
metropolitan 'nonn'is subverted, then the 
very concept of norm will be regarded 
sceptically ( I ). 

In the place of metropolitan models and the 
faint echoes of peripheral imitations, we are 
in a position to relish the multiple influences 
which play on our lives. Two recent 
theorists write that: 

"... post-colonial literatures take us from the 
monocentric into the polyphonic, from the 
dominance of a single culture into 
convt '"ent cultures, from pure ancestry- into 
hybridisation. "(1) 

The traces of empire ensure that many 
visions compete with one another on more 
or less equal terms. 

The post-colonial model does not exist only 
in the tensions between colony and 
metropole. If the very idea of 'norm' is 
being questioned, then all centres are 
suspect. Most countries know centre and 
periphery through the tensions between 
capital and province, for in most countries 
the capital conflates political and cultural 

power Stephen Williams has played with 
this arrogance in an article in Gallery. He 
called his account of culture and politics in 
Bulawayo 'Sketches from the Fringe,' an 
ironic title, since, by the end of the essay, 
one felt that the fringe was centre and that 
Bulawayo has as much or as little right to be 
taken as seriously as does Harare (3). 

Two Zimbabwean artists who reproduce 
issues of the post-colonial condition in their 
work are Helen Lieros and Berry Bickle. 
Lieros has consciously produced an art 
which confronts her dual heritage of Greece 
and Zimbabwe. In an interview in Gallery. 
she asks, "Am I Greek'.' Am 1 African?" 
Lieros identifies the form of her figures in 
Byzantine stylisalion but at the same time 
she can think of the major theme in her work 
as "the earth, the discovery (for myself) of 
Africa, the stratas. laiul formation." (4) 

In one of Lieros's paintings. Anatomy of 
Rock. Greece is present in a form other than 
the human figure. The pink, brown and blue 
of Zimbabwe's granite country at certain 
limes of the year doininate the colours of the 
painting. The rock as organic is suggested in 
the rib-like lines which confidently mould 
the centre of the work. The painting's 
strongest colours however, are the patches of 
blue which surely recall the sea. One blue 
area intrudes into the painting like an inlel 
into land. The other, a painted rectangle of 
paper, suggests a window opening onto 
another, maritime, world. 

Even while the painting is celebrating the 
colours and textures of the Zimbabwean 
landscape, its artist allows us to glimpse the 
sea which physically intrudes into Greece 

and mythically lies so deeply in a Greek 
consciousness. The bones of the rock and 
the window on the sea compete within the 
painting as alternative centres of attention. 
It is as if Lieros, Zimbabwean artist, 
acknowledges that her art also allows the 
viewer access into that worid which was 
classical to Europe. 

Berry Bickle acknowledges the multiple 
inOuences on her work as consciously as 
Lieros. Bickle is acquainted with .some of 
the most influential voices in modern 
cultural theory and these are given form in 
her work. Probably the most important 
thinker of the twentieth century is Michel 
Foucault and post-colonialism is heavily 
indebted to him. Bickle used quotations 
from Foucault in the booklet. Other, which 
accompanied her November 1994 exhibition 
at Gallery Delta (5). 

She quotes Foucault as saying that the 
European tradition has become accustomed 
"to seeking origins ... to recon.ttituting 
traditions ... to projecting teleologies ... 
(feeling) a particular repugnance to 
conceiving of difference." In this quote, 
Foucault is describing the totalitarian mind, 
whether it is the mind of imperialism, 
fascism, Leninism, Apartheid, cultural 
nationalism or a European complacency 
v\hich presents its social practices as ideals. 

The Nazis and South Africa's Afrikaner 
nationalists looked for origins, as if origins 
tell us who we arc now. An emphasis on 
origin allows us to think of history as 
possessing ends which are already present in 
beginnings. History is then seen as moving 
with the predictability of a series. Shaping 

political agendas around origin and end 
(teleology! gives us the illusion of 
reproducing the logic ot time. The 
envisaged end may be the German State, the 
British Empire. Pan Africanism, the worker 
state of Lenin's fantasies or a South Africa 
where everyone inhabited areas which their 
origins made appropriate for them. 

Bickle answers these totalitarian constructs 
with wit and pathos. She offers a series of 
spoons which have no possible purpose 
except to reiterate their own emptiness. 
Someone is hungry. There is terrible pathos 
in her empty dresses, another series which 
has no end except the death that we all will 
share. The dresses have the horror of clothes 
stripped from concentration-camp victims. 
Looking at them one is more conscious of 
their emptiness than of themselves. 

Two dresses within another series bear labels 
pronouncing difference: 

"/ don 't believe as they do. 1 don 't live as 
they do. I don 't love as they do." 

The third, which completes the series, is 
simply marked: 

'7 will die as they do." 

The T becomes all who have been 
slaughtered for difference, for being 
constructed as "other" in someone's belief 
system. But the "they" ironically is all of us: 
even the most arrogant person, most certain 
of the rightness of his or her ways of 
thinking, will share the same death as those 
to whose "otherness' they feel most superior. 

One of the most important insights in 
modem cultural theory is the idea that all our 
understandings are culturally constructed. 
One way of coming to terms with this in art 
criticism is to think of a painting as a text. 
To understand any text one must understand 
the language and its symbolic references. 
No word can be fully understood unless one 
knows the cultural system it is part of. 

In Other. Bickle quotes from Fanon's The 
A)rheolog\ of Knowledge to explain this in a 
different way. Fanon writes that his ideal 
cultural critic looking at a painting "would 
try to discover whether space, distance, 
depth, colour, light, proportions, volumes 
and contours were not. at the period in 
question considered, named, enunciated in a 
discursive practice." 

Bickle strikingly realizes this in a triptych. 
Pro Amore. An unreadable script scrawls 
across a panel vital w ith the brilliance of a 
Matabeleland sunset illuminating the 
harshness of the Matabeleland bush. Stuck 
to the panels are objects which signify 
previous attempts to inhabit that landscape: 
an opened fan. the wooden snake of 
thousands of tourist exchanges, a diary page, 
a framed photograph of a Victorian 
"explorer" in collar and cravat, a tourist 
photograph of the Falls. None has any 
particular dominance: the British explorer 
and artist, the black colonized and curio 
maker have equal authority only because 
Bickle has allowed them to have it. 

But at the same time. Bickle is denying her 
own painting the status of the tlnal word. 
Because Bickle is the artist, she has the 

authority to contextualise the various 
artifacts in the way she chooses but she 
knows the limitations to her authority. Part 
of her medium is the scrawled writing which 
admits to its own inarticulateness. I turn to a 
page in Other. A similar scrawl runs 
diagonally across the page but this time it is 
imposed on cleariy typed words. We live in 
a culture which gives the written word a 
final authority. Eager for that certainty. I 
read the words beneath the scrawl and find: 

"awkward jumbled 
language . . . 
inventing a language 
for other ... in 
suspension, born in 
paint . . . language 
is a sound in ab- 
straction. " 

I have turned to the word for finality and 
Bickle denies me the certainty of what I 
believed was most sure. 


A.,^'^riJ. //^^ 

Post-colonialism is concerned with the 
alternative vision of traditionally powerless 
groups. In our context we think of these as 
the races against whom colonialism 
discriminated. Sickle's triptych reminds us 
of other powerless groups. The ornate frame 
around the photograph of the "explorer' 
reminds us that it is men who go out. 
Women constrain them within a pretty 
domestic space their femaleness is supposed 
to have created. Fan and snake occupy the 
same panel, conventional male and female 
images. The fan suggests how white women 
were expected to maintain the illusion of 
fragility in a hard world. The curio snake 
reminds us of the new economic 
circumstances which re-write the 
masculinity of a black man, reduced to 
creating artifacts for the tourist "other". 

If we are to loose our Culture Cringe and 
stand upright, what is GuUeiy doing 
including amongst its offerings Margaret 
Garlake's "Letter from London"? (6) Is 
Garlake offering us a validation of our poor 
provincial efforts'? At the beginning of this 
article 1 suggested that London is as much 
post-colonial as the most far-flung former 
colony. Post-colonialism's preoccupation 
with centres, borders, norms and authority 
informs every line of Garlake's column. 

The installations which make up the 
exhibition at Hackney Hospital "create a 
sense of acute unease and dislocation ... 
callin); into question the boundaries of 
freedom and restraint, madness and sanity, 
and the role of the artist as our social" 

When Garlake describes how the Hayward 
re-contextualises Impressionists' work by 
juxtaposing it with landscapes from the Paris 
Salon "which ... set the terms of normative 
taste." one suddenly understands anew how 
Impressionism "focussed on ... the informal, 
the impermanent, celebrating the ordinary ... 

modernity and mobility." 

Garlake refers to "recent critical theory of 
'the body' y We are accustomed to thinking 
of the body as the most stable of sites but 
post-colonialism understands better than 
most how aspects of bodies can be made the 
basis of competing ideologies. Much of 
colonialism was based on theories of skin 
colour. What bodies signify and therefore 
may or may not do is more than skin deep. 
Bodies in a heterosexual, patriarchal society 
perform the functions which that society 
imposes on them. The body of a woman 
who chooses not to bear children or the 
bodies of men and women in same sex 
relationships are seen as deviant or 
demonstrate in their practice alternative 
theories of the body. 

Garlake claims that a function of art is to 
stand "on the edf;e of the known, the safe 
and the acceptable" and. in my dialect, to 
allow the grace of the unfamiliar, the 
dangerous and the subversive to enhance our 

'Letter from l.oiulon' is iniporlani not only 
because Garlake writes with rare authority 
but because it reminds us of a paradox: 
London is an imperial centre in a post- 
colonial age. London no longer hands down 

the law like some latter-day Sinai. Instead it 
is the site of innumerable transecting 
influences. London re -colonised from its 
own colonies understands that boundaries 
set around politeness and value are 
permeable, constantly shifting, as the voices 
from beyond, of others, of those colonised in 
so many different ways, assume a 
momentary eminence simply by asserting 
that they are there. 


1 . See ("or example Bil! Asticroft. Gareth Griffith. Helen 
Tiffin. The Empirf Writes Biuk: TIteory in Practice in 
Pnst-Cohnial Literaliires. London and New York; 
Roulledge, 1989. p.17. 

2. Diana Bryden and Helen Tiffin. Decvlonisint; 
Fictions. Sydney: Dangaroo. 199.'^. p.^."^. 

y. Stephen Williams, 'Sketches from the Fringe' 
Gallery, no 2 (December 1994). ppl8-19 

4. 'Helen Lieros: An Interview with Barbara Murray." 
Gutter,-, no 4 (June 199.S). pl4. 

^. Berenice Bickle. fJ^Z/jtr. Harare; 1994. no pagination. 

6, Margaret Garlake. 'Letter from London' 
Gtiller^. no .S (September 1 995 >. ppl 8- 19. 

Attempting to understand the enigmatic nature of others and the identity 
of self is a continuous search of the past and the present for clues. 
Sarah Pratt talks about her strangely resonant etchings 

at memory 

■ your 

BM: The subject matter of your etchings is very personal - 
family in their specific environments. 

SP: Yes. these works are all family related. I wanted to 
re-create a sense of belonging. 

BM: Why re-create? 

SP: The works represent almost a lost childhood, 
something whole that was there and has gone. We moved 
to the farm when I was five and all my life has been 
centred there but the family has been breaking up with my 
brothers leaving home, then my sister, and then I left. We 
had a family reunion which set me off on this subject. 
Fowler says: "As we approach AD 2000 and the end of 
the millenium. the 1990s will witness an increasing and 
increasingly morbid fin de siecle search for roots in the 
past, for meaning in what has happened in the Twentieth 
Century ... nostalgia at a personal level will consequently 
be rampant ... to eveiyone a family tree, to every place a 
potted history ..." (I) 

BM: So this is an attempt to make your own family tree, to make 
sense of your past and the people in it? 

SP: Yes. I think that people are constructed by experience and 
motivated by memories of past events, they form a vital part of each 
individual. Memory allows me access to a place where recognition 
and exploration of myself as a cultural, multi-layered human being is 
possible. Memory is identity. If I can quote again, Stevenson said : 
"The past is myself my own history, the seed of my present thoughts, 
the moidd of my present disposition." (2) So my works allow me to 
piece together the past in a narrative sense, to explore aspects of past 
events. Most people are deeply affected by where they grow up. If I 
hadn't grown up on the farm Td be totally different. 1 am working 
in terms of my memories of that time. You could call them interior 
rural landscapes. 

BM: Your works express interesting relationships between humans 
and animals. 

SP: Well animals have always been part of our lives on the farm. 
The geese, the bloody fish... 

BM: Are they 'bloody" fish? 

SP: Yes ... really! The trout ... my father and brothers are frantic 
fishermen. So my whole life I've been transported back and forth to 

Nyanga. At that family reunion, everyone came back to the farm, 
from New Zealand, from South Africa and from Zimbabwe. They 
all came back and the men just disappeared and when you did see 
them all they talked about was fishing and what they caught etc. So 
my sister-in-law in this etching is clutching a trout because that's 
what she's got to look forward to, being married to my brother Fish 
are going to be part of her life whether she likes it or not. 

BM: She is holding the fish very close, almost like you would a 
child. She's looking away but her face is impassive, accepting? 

SP: Yes, there is acceptance. She has married into that experience. 
When my brother catches trout, their daughter clutches the fish like 
that and carries them around until she is covered in fish slime. 

BM: In the etching of your mother alone, the fish are coming in and 
out of holes. Why is that? 

SP: I just wanted fish sticking out of everywhere. In some sketches 
I have not made into etchings, fish come out of the walls and even 
the roof. In another, the fishing hooks grab onto me, hundreds of 
them. Fish everywhere. Fish skeletons. Even some figures whose 
heads have become fish-heads. Women and family are subjected to 
the fish. The geese are just to project another aspect of my mother's 
life into the picture. 

BM: The geese 
are her choice? 

SP: Yes. She 
hkes them. She 
doesn't like fish. 

BM: So the 



SP: Yes. they 
take over my 
parents lives, and 
mine too! 

BM: And you 

resent that? 

SP: No. I don't. 
It's just the reality. 

BM: .Although 
the people are 

with the fish or geese, the viewer is never quite sure of the 
relationship. The people are surrounded by the animals but not 
doing anything with them. 

SP: I like that. You don't understand the relationship. It makes 
you question the character. It adds something, not being able to 
define the relationship. 

BM: Do you think of these relationships as strange? 

SP: No. it's just one plus one plus one equals the person. 

BM: When you did your thesis on art theory last year what did you 
concentrate on? 

SP: Portraiture by 20th century women artists. Frida Kahlo. Alice 
Neel. Paula Modersohn-Becker. and I talked about Kathe Kollwitz a 
couple of times, looking at their portraits of women and their self 
portraits. The use of personal iconography is what I'm specially 
interested in and the problems for the viewer who obviously has not 
experienced that person's life. With all the iconography that Frida 
uses, you really have to read an autobiography before you can 
understand her images. This is problematic but it adds interest to the 
work, the fact that the viewer can't really understand her. 

Pure portraits only give some idea of the person. I want to work 
with the objects that make up their lives. I think that a person's 
character is the result of all the experiences that they've had and 
their collective effect. So I try to represent individuals through 
experiences I have shared with them, expressing part of myself, and 
using the objects as symbols resulting in a narrative image. I am 
interested in narrative art, the story of a life. 

BM: Which artists' work do you like? 

SP: I like de Chirico's work. Grant Wood's American ('jtithic is my 
favourite painting. It's wonderful. I relate very strongly to that 
painting because of the defensive stance ... the 'this is my land' 
quality. On the farm you experience a sense of insecurity whether 
you own the land or rent it. With the land aquisition policy, you feel 
you don't belong. You don't know if your land is going to be taken 
away from you. The psychological effect it has had on farmers is 
very strong. There is also the insecurity that I feel of whether I can 
stay here or not. I need to locate a sense of belonging somewhere. It 
is so beautiful here and at the same time you feel you won't be here 

BM: WtuT work then re\eals the life of your family, captures their 
involvement with the land and the animals and the insecurity of their 
present situation. I don't get much feeling from your work that the 
land is beautiful. 

SP: I wanted to express the Africanness of the outside, the 
intrusiveness of it. You can't get away from it. You can't close the 
door. There are no doors or windows. People are in the landscape, 
part of it. yet they are vulnerable. 

BM: Do you see the African landscape as harsh, for example in one 
etching you use a lot of spikey aggressive cactuses? 

SP: That etching is of my sister who now lives in Chiredzi where it 
is unbearably hot. She is fanatical about cactuses. My cousin is 
clutching one, getting spiked. When people are insecure in their 
environment they become attached to material things and in my 
opinion it is dangerous. The people are made vulnerable through 
clutching them. 

BM: In many of the etchings there is a sense of intense emotion 
created by the objects and the surroundings but the people seem 

SP: I am more interested in 
expressing their emotions 
through their environment, 
through the objects I associate 
them with, rather than on 
their faces. In the etching of 
my mother and my brother- 
in-law, she is obviously the 
dominant one; he is a 

BM: The characters are very 
stationary making the 
etchings more like traditional 
formal portraits where the 
person sits for the artist. 

SP: I've always enjoyed that 

static quality, lack of 

movement. I want to present 

a set picture of my view of the person. For example, the etching of 

the dressmaker is of my sister-in-law. She is from New Zealand and 

I don't relate her to the farm at all. She lives in the city, hence the 

buildings in the background. Dressmaking is her career. I'm 

interested in how objects and 

your career shape you and 

how you cling to it, it's your 

identity. She is surrounded. 

hemmed in by her career It 

is in a sense constricting. But 

it's her choice and that's how 

she portrays herself We are 

formed by our choices. They 

create our identity. 

BM: The patterning of the 
entire surface, like a textile, is 
characteristic of your work. 
When did that style start'.' 

SP: Well at school we only 
did drawing and textiles. 
There was no painting. When 
I started at Michaelis, I was 
doing painting but in second 
year 1 began printmaking. all 

the difTerenl types, lino cut. collograph. stone 
litho. plate litho. screen printing, mono prints. 
They give you a sound technical grounding in 
both black and white and colour. Then in third 
year I chose printmaking as a major, 
specialising in etching because I could get so 
much more detail. I hate the flatness of screen 
printing and litho. It's the embossed quality 
and the preciseness of etching that 1 like, the 
control you have over detail. My paintings 
were also detailed, precise. The small animals 
and objects fulfill my need for detail. And I 
like using the many techniques to create 
different and contrasting surfaces and textures, 
waxy, soft, sharp, lined — fish scales, floor, 
fabric, flesh. The faces are etched in black and 
then pushed back smooth to get the white back, 
giving a softer surface. 

BM: Do you work from sketches? 

SP: Yes. not detailed, just rough sketches. In 
my opinion if you work from a detailed, 
planned sketch the result is cold. If I dont 
rework the copper it comes out too perfect. I 
try to rework, to use mistakes. My work is 
quite tight anyway so it is easy for my self not 
to come through, to get too tight. I think I lose 
a lot of feeling in the work if I just translate a 
perfect drawing onto copper plate. Also I get 
bored, just copying, which must show in the 

BM: What is your process? 

SP: I do a very rough sketch first, just 

outlining composition. Then I etch and do the 

first proof. You can"t really see what you're 

doing while you are making the image because 

it is a reversed process, so I go back and rework 

and rework until I get what I want. The smaller 

works take about two weeks of working and 

reworking. I'm getting better at making less 

proofs. Initially you're e.xcited to see what 

you've done, but as you get more technically 

adept you can plan it more and take fewer proofs. My sketches also 

usually define the light source. Etching lends itself to shadows so I 

emphasise light and shadow. And I like the play with perspective. 

BM: The distorted perspective adds an interesting element 
particularly inside the buildings which are European in style. 

SP: Yes, I wanted European images. The buildings are European, 
the subjects are European, only the land is African. It would be a lie 
to use African objects. I used to use African objects in still lifes but 
now I feel they are not part of my identity. I can admire them from 
afar but they are not part of my own character I am not involved in 
that very personal sphere with them. They are not part of my family 
and the experiences I've shared with them. My parents are attached 
to the African land, the birds, the animals. They are European, but 
they grew up here. I am a Zimbabwean but I have grown up around 
people who themselves grew up in Rhodesia, a separate but identical 
place. My parents" sense of uneasiness, not being able to secure a 
future in Zimbabwe, all those things accumulate, create a sense of 
defensiveness and looking back to one's own culture. If you're not 
secure, the other culture is threatening. We are affected by Africa 
and the result is that we look more to where we belong. 

Any small community, say of Jewish people surrounded by a 
Christian community, accentuates and defends their own culture. 

Contact with a culture that is not yours, realising that that is quite 
normal and fine, does not result in wanting to join that culture but 
rather in strengthening your own culture. So one accepts other 
cultures but identifies more strongly with one's own culture and the 
smaller the community the stronger the need to cling to one's own 
culture. The white community in Zimbabwe is not truly European 
anymore. They are products of Zimbabwe. They have their own 

Changes make you question who you are and it comes back to 
family, to those experiences and your memories of them. Much of 
the art now being produced by students at Michaelis is very personal 
in nature. People are trying to find a sense of identity and a sense of 
belonging. Memories help to strengthen the barriers around the 
individual's cultural identity. 


1. P.J. Fowler. Tlu- Pasl in Cimlempomn Society: Then. Now. London & New York: 
Routledge. 1992, pi 61. 

2. Slevenson quoted in E. Tonkin. Narrating our Pasis: The Social Construction of Oral 
History. New York: CUP. 1992, pi. 

All reproduced works: 

Sarah Pratt, (Untitled), 1995, approx 48 x 34cms, etching 

Adda Geiling, a painter whose upbringing in former East Germany 
fostered political awareness and sensitivity to self-censorship, 
worked and exhibited in Zimbabwe for three years. 
Her experiences of the local art scene lead her to make this challenge 


"Take an object, do something with it. then do something else with 

This entry by the American painter Jasper Johns in his sketchbook, 
was over the years to become his personal motto. It helped him 
create a number of interesting and decidedly controversial pieces of 
work, such as Flag, painted in 1954/55. the tlrst of his Flag series. 

The American flag was at that time difficult to imagine as a piece of 
art. It seemed downright absurd. But because of this absurdity. Flag 
remained for many years the focus of art theory — discussed, 
celebrated, hated. Disturbed by the subject and irritated by its 
superficial harmlessness, the viewer was captured. The often seen 
but seldom closely observed object, the flag, became the focus of 
conscious looking. 

Can a painting be a projection plane for confrontation with one's 
own country? 

Is Fine Art not often described as a medium for everything that is 
'aesthetically beautiful' and thereby clearly identified in its 

Can you bind ideology, politics and art together? There are many 
answers to these questions, often of a complicated nature. The 
diversity of views on art forbids a consensus. 

The Italian artist Renato Guttoso remarks for instance: 

"Art is not ideology. Init can experience ideological influences. Art 
is a vision of the world, not an instninwnl for conveying a given 

Alfred Hrdlicka, an Austrian sculptor and graphic artist, has said: 

"Without the nutrient and the raw material of politics, art makes no 
sense. Art has always been and wilt always be politically used and 

Whether art is vision or "what good artists make" (Picasso), in every 
case, art wants to be more than ihc interaction of colour arul form. 

Perplexity concerning contemporary art is great. In the face of the 
enormous ovcr-cmphasis of subjective experience, the viewer, 
despite the intelligent and fascinating arrangement of the content ol a 
work, feels insecure and alienated. The basic problem remains one 
of approach. The artist, concerned with his individuality (since only 
that makes him an artist), assumes that painting is not a mirror, but 
I U rather that it arises from being irritated. However, the recipient is 

Alfred Hrdlicka, Studienblatt zu "Plotzenseer Totentanz", 
1974, 32 X 21.2cms, drypoint etching. (Photo courtesy 
Rasch und Rohring Verlag, Hamburg.) 

only prepared to a degree to let himself be irritated and follow the 
thought process of the artist. He will give up this effort quickly if 
the world of the artist seems too far removed from his own: even 
though the content is the whole point, apart from the formal, 
pictorial quality of a work. Nowadays the meaning of the painting is 
often ignored, yet it is specifically the developing of an 
understanding between the artist and the viewer on the content, that 
makes the work, at least for the viewer, original and exciting. 

Meantime, there is an enormous freedom for the artist. The 
multiplicity of artistic expression has grown immensely since the 
beginning of the 20th century. The traditional media of painting and 
sculpture have been enriched by object art. installation, performance 
and liappeiuMg. Hvervbody can express himself in any possible 
medium, going turlher ihan ihe two-dimensional, experimentnig. 

In ihis respect. Zimbabwe moves in traditional ways. There is not 
much experimenting, only a few artists seem to have discovered the 
challenge of crossing boundaries. Much work is made with sale in 
mind which, while not in ilscif condeinnable, perceptibly limits 


Adda Gelling, Big Fish (detail on left / complete 
work below), 1995, approx 2 x 2.5m, mixed media 

and something more 

If you added up all the "spirits" of contemporary Shona Sculpture, 
you would think that Zimbabwean art is deeply rooted in tradition. 
At least since the birth of Shona Sculpture however, the recourse to 
traditional subjects often seems to be an expression of helplessness. 
Only a few artists reflect a contemporary existence or awareness 
(befindlichkeit); in most cases the art and the artist's own life are 
strictly separated. The problems in the artist's life are avoided and 
not used as subjects for his or her art. There is a great fear of 
confronting difficult subjects. It is easier to go back to the 
'traditional" subjects. Only a very few artists are courageous enough 
to paint real and delicate issues (beriihrungsangst). 

Painting in Zimbabwe has had an enormous upswing in the last few 
years. With Luis Meque. Shephard Mahufe. Fasoni Sibanda. George 
Churu. Keston Beaton and others, a new generation has grown up. 
with enough potential to develop their own artistic language. Still 
missing however, is the self-confidence to cross boundaries and to 
see themselves as the mouthpiece of serious social expression. 

It was conspicuous at the 1995 Zimbabwe Heritage exhibition, that 
in comparison with previous years, more and more artists did not 
enter, with the majority of established and leading artists not 
participating. This left the stage to mostly young inexperienced 
artists, who in fact need to be confronted with the work of the 
experienced artists in order to develop. 

Reality for most Zimbabweans is anything but rosy at the moment. 
Many have to fight harder than ever for survival. Dissatisfaction 
grows, specially within the younger generation. There is enough 
material for committed art. as soon as its potential is discovered. 

"Even if politics are decided at a higher level, the fermentation 
amonf> dissatisfied people cdvvays provides political dynamite and a 
measurement of the mood because, despite their lack of influence, 
the future is often anticipated in the underground, at grassroots 
/fi'p/." (Alfred Hrdlicka) 

Art has an enormous capacity to reach into the future, to make it 
possible to feel what cannot be expressed in words. Art is in every 
case a sensor of its time — that is its chance, its opportunity and its 
special quality. 

It seems Zimbabwe is still looking for its identity. Is there any better 
task for an artist than to participate in this process, to influence it. to 
make an impact and to represent his or her consciousness? 

Note: Jutta Jackson kindly translated this ailicle from the German for Galiery. 


Recognition of the richness of African arts was 
one of the ainns of Africa '95 and while It pre- 
sented some of the art from Africa it was in- 
evitably limited, as Keith Murray writes. Now 
that the debate has been so successfully 
i opened can we hope it will continue with 
k more, in-depth, and well researched r. 
-^ temporary exhibitions from ind-^-' ' 
African countries? 

Africa '95, a Season Celebrating the 
Arts of Africa — how to begin? A 
question that the London galleries 
and curators must have asked 
themselves from the initial 
planning of these exhibitions, a 
balancing act of space and 
budget against the huge 
diversity that is Africa. 

Africa — The Art of a 
Continent at the Royal 
Academy was without 
doubt the exhibition of 
a lifetime, a chance 
to study under one 
roof a vast array 
of artifacts 
over a 

years, from the Olduvai hand axe to a Zulu 
vinyl-asbestos earplug. Inevitably the 
popular favourites seemed to be the most 
weird and exotic, the same driving force that 
motivated many of the original collectors. 
There is no doubt that works such as the 
Kongo nail fetishes have the power to evoke 
a visceral twist, even in today's most cynical 
Western gut. Sensual beauty also proved 
ageless, the Burkino-Faso chair drawing 
many admirers. The serene Yoruba 
terracottas and the masterly Benin bronzes 
fully justified their fame. And there were 
many new delights such as the Chief's stool 
from Tanzania complete with attendant 

A jam-packed collection of wonderful 
artifacts, the RA exhibition reinforced 
comfortable Western conceptions of Africa 
as exotic and remote. And where did 
Zimbabwe feature in all this? The Bird that 
would complete the unity of the national 
tlock was tucked in the comer of a vast 
room, kindly lent by South Africa! 

Chair, Nuna, Burkina Faso, 20th century (?), wood 
81 X 67 X 28.5cm (Musee de L'Iran, Dakar) 


Fante, Ghana, Will You Fly 
or Will You Vanish? Either 
Way You Can t Escape Us, 
C.1920, imported cotton 

^[^^ ^"^ ^"^ ^U^ 



KYM A ' ^ --^ ■; 
WB^ WB^ V.B^ ^BW k.Bj! 

Africa '95 


the contemporary? 

African Metalwork at the Crafts Council 
Gallery was one of the few exhibitions to 
have an African curator — Magdalene 
Odundo, the renowned potter from Kenya. 
As the title suggests, a sincere overview of 
all Africa was attempted, and in the initial 
stages this worked well. Ceremonial regalia, 
gold weights, currency bars, weapons, 
implements, were well displayed, the only 
wish was for more information. 

This exhibition ran into that old self-made 
dilemma, art or craft? It is a distinction that 
barely holds water, particularly in Africa, but 
has been circumscribed by administrators 
and bureaucrats to make their lives easier. 
(Does craft still come under the Ministry of 
Women's Affairs in Zimbabwe?) 

As exhibits approached the present however. 
the art content was sidelined. I have no 
problems with artifacts made by hand from 
recycled or scrap metal, proud that recycling 
has been part of the way of life in Africa for 
many years (the Western world has only 
recently attempted to move in this direction, 
with much 'green' trumpeting). The milk 
chums, containers made out of bottle tops, 
light bulbs turned into paraffin lights etc. are 
all very salutary even if their appeal in 

Akosombo Textiles 
Ltd, Ghana, 1995, 
wax print cotton 

London is one of quaintness. However 
when they are 'artistic' but technically 
incompetent copies of ghastly Modeme 
metal and glass furniture, I fear the worst. 
Including these last objects was a disservice 
to the superb achievements of the earlier 
work, and reinforced a view commonly held 
by Westerners that all of Africa is primitive 
and backward. 

The Art of African Textiles: Technology. 
Tradition and Lurex at the Barbican Art 
Gallery, more than any of the other 
exhibitions, gave a feeling of an art form 
that is alive and well, with some outstanding 
examples both old and new. Passing through 
a specially commissioned Egyptian tent- 
hanging, you left the inhuman public spaces 
of the Barbican behind and were faced by 
two subtle and rich applique hangings by 
Chant Avedissian. loosely based on famous 
monuments and mosques of his native 
Egypt. The colours of these deceptively 

simple geometric compositions, many 
shades of black, ochre, olive green with 
small highlights of red, immediately 
identified the work solidly with Africa. 

The main body of this exhibition was 
loosely arranged by country and technique, 
with historic precedents interspersed. It was 
an intelligent presentation, allowing the 
viewer to browse and investigate. Thus an 
apron, beaded in traditional fashion (from 
the Kariba area), was placed near South 
African dress cloths decorated with dense 
arrangements of safety pins. A traditional 
cloth stencilled with an endless indigo repeat 
of There is no King as God was juxtaposed 
with a modem reworking of the same 
tradition, a cotton wax print repeat of a 
motorbike composed of spirals, the 
background completely filled with an 
endless Vroom — evidence of a vital 
tradition continuing from the past into 
regeneration in the present. 


High-backed chief's stool, 
Nyamwezi, Tanzania, late 19th 
century, h. 107cm (Staatliche 
Museen zu Berlin) 

Kangas. embroidered and dyed gowns, 
cotton, silk, political and celebratory prints. 
flags, all were displayed with comprehensive 
historic details of how and why 
developments took place making a very 
satisfying and vital exhibition. 

Big City — Artists from Africa at the 
Serpentine Gallery avoided the trap of trying 
for too much and gained by allowing the 
individuality of the artists to 
come across. After I had 
looked hard at the first 
twenty or so of his 
Frederic Bruly 
Bouabre from the 
Ivory Coast had me 
hooked — entering into 
his world philosophy, 
complete with an evolved 
written language, naive but 
profound drawings that combine 
with the writing to present great 
graphic style, a commitment self- 
evident in the sheer number of 
cards on display, a series of series 
that have become part of his very 
ife. In an interview in the 
accompanying catalogue. Bouabre 

"Culture is the torch, the heiicoii 
that lights the way. Without culture, 
mankind would live in darkness." 

"I obsene and what I see delii^hts 
nie ... discovering things that would 
otherwise pass unnoticed and 
revealing them to your fellow human 
beings is being creative..." 

Seydou Keita is a Malian 
photographer who has spent most of 
his life taking portraits of local people 

in Bamako, his birthplace, always using the 
same camera, the same room, the same 
props. He can date his archive by the 
backdrop, his bedspread, which he changes 
every two years. The results are a 
compo.sed. contrasted, crystal clear record of 
the people in the town until 1977 when he 
was pushed out by the advent of cheap 
colour photography. 

Bodys Isek Kingelez from Zaire is. in his 
own words, "the enlightened artist of new 
horizons, creator-maker of Kimheville." 
Using polychrome maquettes of fantasy 
buildings, towns, roads, trains, he has 
created a world that makes a mockery of 
many of this decades's architectural 
preoccupations. Highly stylised, they 
delight the eye and the imagination, and 
many are convincingly buildable. How 
many of today's architects can offer as 

However, some of the work on the 
Serpentine show was unremarkable. The 
poignancy of an assemblage of found objects 
plus written commentary has to be very 
powerful indeed if it is not to be diminished 
when moved out of its original context; 
competent wall murals are to be found in 
many countries in Africa: and weak 
versions of Zephania Tshuma's caustic 
visions produced by a South African sculptor 
were among the works exhibited. 

As a Zimbabwean I was looking for 
Zimbabwe's involvement in Africa ■9.'>. It 
cannot be a coincidence that two of the three 
Zimbabwean items I saw (the Zimbabwe 
Bird at the Royal Academy and the Apron at 
the Barbican) both came from South African 
collections. Even more damning is the fact 
that two of the curators. Magdalene Odundo 
for the Crafts Council and Tom Phillips for 
the Royal Academy, are no strangers to 

There is no doubt that there are Zimbabwean 
artists whose work would stand up well 
against the individual artists shown at the 
Serpentine, that the work of Zimbabwe's 
best textile artists would have exposed a rich 
new vein at the Barbican, that Weldart has 
produced work that would demonstrate at 
the Crafts Council that modem metal- 
working techniques can produce real art in 

An intelligent selection of the best of the 
varied arts and crafts of Zimbabwe, 
pre.sented at an official level, would have 
been an eye-opener in London. With a bit of 
effort and enlightened support this couki still 
be achieved. 

«VoiLA comstJTLeRACfSiiSK 

fSwSWiWIBv^S^' ^ « AN^A!s/r!T rmmmtBiMm. 

Frederic Bruly Bouabre, The Couple United by Eternal Feelings Tortured in Twisted 
Embraces of Pure Love, 1993 

Frederic Bruly Bouabre, This is how Racism Destroys the Whole of Humanity, 1993 

Kagiso Pat Mautloa, Tablet, 1993, 109 x 43.5 x 2cms, metal, wood, oil on canvas 


Reading the Landscape - Nyanga, 
Henry Thompson, Gallery Delta, 
November 1995 

A few years ago I guided Brian Bradshaw to 
the Eastern Highlands. Bradshaw, that 
master etcher and painter who has. since the 
fifties, been the doyen of landscape painting 
in South Africa, wanted to see some good 
country, to make some sl^etches and 
observations for a painting series which was 
later to be coined Bradshaw '.v Africa. Late in 
the afternoon we were descending the hill to 
Mare Dam where I had planned a night stop 
or two from which to make excursions, and 
in the hope, at dawn or dusk, for the 
opportunity to fish a trout. Bradshaw 
suddenly broke silence and exclaimed in his 
broad northern accent: "This is Robert 
Paul's country. Why ... why are you bringing 
inc liere ? I don V want Paul 's bloody count ly. 
I don 't want to paint here. I want rocks ... I 
want Africa. Africa Africa. I want those big 
granite outcrops" He thumped the steering 
wheel in frustration. At my direction we 
stopped at a cottage. I endeavoured to 
explain and promised him his Africa Africa 
next day. I unloaded my pack. There was an 
exchange of sharp words. He drove off. high 
revving up the hill and out of the valley 
heading back towards Makoni through which 
we had driven earlier in the day between 
huge granites which he appreciated. I 
remarked the intensity of his feelings. 1 
thought I would not see him again and I 
reconciled myself to several days fishing. 
And then I realised he had gone with my rod 
and tackle. He came back in the late night 
and said: "Found your Jlslting rod." Then I 
heard him say by way of explanation, "It's 
all Mavis' fault." When I enquired who 
Mavis was he said: "Well, you know ... the 
bloody car hire people", whose delay that 
morning had irritated him immensely. The 
next day we went on to Nyanga North, to 
Ziwa and Zuwa, and found good rocks and 
country and baobab for him to satisfy his lust 
for his Africa. 

The lesson is obvious. Bradshaw was 
seeking the recognition of that special 
something in the landscape with which he 
identified completely. The landscape is vital. 
Not all will satisfy. Bradshaw"s origins are 
Bolton and the moors and Wales and its 
mountains. Nyanga with its pines and waters 
did not satisfy and he had a very healthy 
respect for Robert Paul, the major body of 
whose work was Nyanga in all its moods. 

Henry Thompson was bold, in the wake of 
Robert Paul, to take Nyanga — Reading the 
Landscape as a theme for a series of 
paintings. Clearly there was a danger, a trap 
to avoid. Henry Thompson is however, a 
white African. His origins are a farm near 
Kuruman on the edge of the Kalahari and it 
is there that his appreciation of the landscape 
began as a small boy. And it is obvious that 
he delighted in nature. He told me once, 

over coffee, that his grandfather, whom he 
loved, had a deep love of the land and was a 
conser\ ationist at heart who ran no more 
cattle that was necessary for the needs. And 
how, after a wild ride with his brother to an 
adjoining farm, the old man rebuked them 
severely for seeing the lathered horses off to 
water with a switch across their rumps. A 
lesson, he says, he has never forgotten. 
Henry Thompson was uprooted from the 
Kalahari and it is after many years of living 
in Zimbabwe and visiting Nyanga that he 
paints that landscape. 

Does Henry Thompson succeed? Yes. 
Certainly and well. His paintings are still, 
calm and clear, like the clarity of the early 
morning. He would the phrase 
'champagne morning". There is no specific 
view that we can recognise absolutely but 
rather the basic ingredients of earth and sky 
and rock and tree and grass and water and 
sun and light and shade are brought together 
from here and there and are familiar to us in 
their essence and in their new but lasting 
juxtapositions and relationships. How do we 
associate these paintings of an African 
landscape with Nyanga? Most importantly 
and almost magically, Helen Lieros 
comments, it is the line of the hills which 
expresses most and which wavers here, 
thickens there, wanders there. The centre of 
the exhibition is the viewer, around him the 
paintings, and if one allows the eye to move 
from painting to painting, the line of the 
hills, encompassing all yet freeing all. links 
and creates a panoramic effect. There are 
paintings which include the road, the bridge, 
the cutting, the long-grassed verge and bush 
and msasa trees, a building and village, a 
dismembered tree, rocks, and even the artist, 
and in all there is the line of the hills, not 
specific of Inyangani or any other range or 
down, but which secures us with a strong 
sense of place. 

There is one painting. September, in which 
the density and shade of the blue of the hills 
is identical to the blue of the sky but 
mysteriously, because of the darker outline, 
the hills take on and appear a darker blue. 
And in these paintings we have the 

remembrance and the longing, of times past 
and for future times, for Nyanga, which for 
many of us is the place we go in good 
expectancy, for it is in the main, open and 
friendly, warm and embracing country, and 
to which we are drawn again by these 

I have not watched Henry Thompson paint 
... I don't know anybody outside his family 
who has had this opportunity if even they, 
but he works in his studio, taking excursions 
to look long and hard and thoughtfully ... 
and to make sketches of the structure of the 
landscape, abstracting to simple geometric 
form and I suspect that when he works he is 
thoughtful and deliberate, never wild, and 
that his markings with the bigger brush that 
appear spontaneous are deliberated long and 
hard and then put down with gusto and 
panache, as in The Dismemhered Tree. 

My own favourites were Hill, a masterly 
work which stands in the memory for its 
softness and subtleness of colour and light 
and its unusual composition, and The 
Dismembered Tree for the thrust and sweep 
and sear of the red that runs through it. 
There were others to which I was drawn ... a 
smaller painting, Landscape, in which the 
rocks of a kopje were evident and where the 
long grass of the savannah bleached white 
at the very end of the hot, dry season shines 
white as if with frost as the early morning 
sun glances and dances along it ... and 
reminiscent for me of crossing the 

grasslands of the Somabula Flats at dawn on 
a jewel of another African day. Inevitably 
there were some which I liked less, for 
example the painting of the lake, the island 
and the rock which seemed to me less well 
composed and a shade too surreal. 

Henry Thompson, as in a previous 
exhibition where he paid homage to Matisse 
and Picasso, gives us an insight into himself. 
There is nostalgia in his Reading the 
Landscape which depicts his old model MG 
in which he delighted to tour to the Kalahari 
and, as he once told me, to put his foot down 
and listen to the gutsy roar of the exhaust 
through the town of Kuruman at sun-up, but 
with which he sadly had to part years ago. 
And in In My Mind's Eye, he places himself 
in the country wearing his favourite cap and 
looking hard with squinted eye. If these two 
paintings are for me less well formed and 
painted, it is perhaps because they eschew a 
metaphysical edge and there is a poignancy 
in them, and if there is any ego, his desire to 
make a mark, to mark a place for posterity, it 
is understood. Surely he has earned it. He 
reads the Nyanga landscape very well 

Henry Thompson is a long-standing and 
major painter whose rendering of the 
Nyanga landscape is his own and which 
stands our scrutiny. Most of these paintings 
are memorable and can still be called to 
mind. Derek Muggins 

Henry Thompson, Landscape (left) 

Henry Thompson, The Dismembered Tree (above) 

The 9th Annual VAAB Exhibition, 
National Gallery in Bulawayo, 
Dec-Feb 1995 

Art in the Time of ESAP: 
Directly outside my office window in 
downtown Bulawayo, a young man in t- 
shirt, jeans and dark glasses spends each 
day patiently awaiting buyers for his fruit 
and vegetables. Across the road, the post 
office pavement has been transformed into 
a tlea market by women selling porcelain 
statuettes, toys, petticoats, kitchenware, 
jewellery, handbags and other articles. A 
few blocks away, the central parking spaces 
have been commandeered by mountains of 
onions and other produce. The streets are 
alive with the sound of free marketeering; 
this is the age of ESAP and the motto is sell 
or perish. 

In the National Gallery of Bulawayo a not 
dissimilar scenario is enacted on a daily 
basis under the guise of Art. Agents bring 
sackfuls of BaTonga stools, doors, baskets, 
beadwork and drums from the Zambesi 
Valley, traders flash necklaces from 
Ethiopia and Kenya, sculptors and painters 
appear from Malawi or Mozambique, long- 
suffering crafts people from the rural areas 
wait with forbearance for audience on 
"buying' days and paintings are taken from 
the walls of middle-class homes and 
presented in the hope that they are the lost 
and priceless work of some famous artist. 
All seek to convert something which they 
perceive as having value for that most 
elusive of commodities, money. This is the 
age of the great sell where aesthetics plays 
second fiddle to the grim reality of 
economic survival. 

Enter the 1995 Visual Artists' Association 
of Bulawayo (VAAB) Annual Exhibition. 
The VAAB Annual is a juried show and has 
top billing in the two main rooms of the 
Bulawayo Gallery which are spacious and 
ideally suited to large format work in the 
mould of Baron or Jogee. The reality of 
this year's show is somewhat different 
though and, exceptions apart, marks a 
retreat to small, safe and saleable paintings 
and unremarkable sculpture. 

Of those that do stand out, Rashid Jogee's 
Madhouse is airy, breathes freely and has 
somehow escaped the fate of many of his 
paintings which suffer from being 
overworked and dense. Other paintings 
that leap off the walls are Tomi Ndebele's 
Blind Please Help. Voti Thebe's Mtwane 
"Nhlabathi" , Char Cooke's Morning Light. 
Sibonisiwe Gala's Playtime and Images 
and Val Broomberg's Nude. Various 
permutations of the Mzilikazi School style 
are included in the show but there is a 
noticeable loss of direction within the 
school with little evidence of the tough 
social commentary which originally 
brought the genre into prominence. i -j 

Of the textiles, Sibonisiwe Gala's / Need 
You Mum and Gweru artist Clement Cohen's 
How Did Life Get Here? impress with their 
freshness and scale but otherwise the fabrics 
on view reveal nothing new or particularly 

Sibonisiwe Cala, Playtime and Images (detail) 

The graphic section is made up mostly of 
collographs emanating from the Douslin 
House studio and the influence of Mary 
Davies. However, this is another movement 
in trouble, its impulse having succumbed to 
uniformity of style, dearth of content and a 
noticeable decline in technique. 

The metal sculpture genre closely associated 
with Bulawayo is conspicuously absent this 
year and in its place is a hoard of wooden 
sculptures in the style of Zephania Tshuma. 
A Tshuma industry has emerged over the 
years which began with the old man's 
immediate family but which has now spread 
to remote family members and even those 
who have no claim to kinship at all. 
Unfortunately the uniqueness of the genre 
has long been smothered by their 
commercial viability and only occasionally 
does a gem emerge from amidst the mass of 
look-alikes. The old man has not been well 
of late and his sculptures are rarely seen in 
Zimbabwe these days, most ending up for 
sale in Geimany. 

If the VAAB 9th Annual Exhibition is 
anything to go by. safe, small and saleable 
seem to be the catchwords of the times. The 
reality of ESAP and the messages of the 
new economic age for the visual arts are 
plain for all to .see. With local patronage 
falling as rapidly as the value of the dollar, it 
is the tourist trade that is dictating the 
direction of our art and portable and cheap is 
what is being called for, something which 
curio sellers figured out a long time ago. 
Stephen Williams 




Methuseli Tshuma, We share everything 

Decorated Homes in Botswana 

Traditionally, in Botswana, the home is the 
woman's domain and it is her responsibility 
to build, maintain and decorate it. In this 
respect, art blends with everyday function, 
continuing a basic premise of African art. 
Decorated Homes in Botswana looks at 
both the history and the present reality of 
this tradition. 

WoiiKMi m Botswana use what is readily 
available (earth, dung, oxides) whereas, 
when men decorate buildings it is with 
bought materials (paint, cement) and is 
usually for monetary gain. Fascinating 
technical information is presented regard- 
ing the constituent elements of traditional 
decorating materials vis-a-vis their 
commercial counterparts. The book 
deconstructs the perjurative stereotype that 
Africans live in 'mud huts', referring 
instead to the geologically more accurate 
terms of clay or earth. The point is made 
that the morass of cement block and 
corrugated iron structures that are the norm 
in urban settlements are built by men and 
are often less suitable to withstand the 
extremes of heat and cold than traditional 
thatch and earth houses. 

Emphasis is given to the origins of designs 
and the influence of other regional group- 
ings such as the South African Ndebele and 
Pedi. Lekgapho, regarded as being the very 
essence of Tswana design, is given its own 
chapter. The pattern in lel<gupho is 
produced without tools, utilising only the 
fingers on the courtyard of the lelapa 
(homestead) or on the wall of the house. 
The authors note that lekgapho is the one 
design not being continued by younger 
people but it is interesting to note that the 
cultural symbolism of lekgapho is a 
frequently recurring theme within contem- 
porary painting in Botswana. 

Illustrated with Sandy Grant's excellent 
photographs. Decorated Homes in Bot- 
swana is intelligently and sympathetically 
written. It provides historical background 
and draws in the broader context of the 
shifting socio-cultural patterns of modern- 
day Botswana. When research for this 
book was initiated, it was in the belief that 
the art of decorating dwellings in Botswana 
was practised only by the elderly and was 
in the process of dying out. The winters 
and the reader are thus pleasantly surprised 
to discover that the practice is still flourish 
ing, albeit mostly in rural locations, and 
that young people are propagating the art 
form with a new and energetic vision. 
Stephen Williams 

Decorated Humes in Botswana, Sandy and 
Elinah Grant, Mochudi: Phutadiktibo 
Museum, 1995. (Available through the 
Botswana Book Centre in Gaborone. 
Phutadikobo Museum in Mochudi and the 
National Gallery in Bulawayo.) 

Life of the Line — Luis IVIeque, 
Gallery Delta, March 1996 

Luis Meque takes us on a fast talking tour, a 
tour cataloguing the here and now of this 
city, this land. Harare. Zimbabwe. 1996. He 
shows us the real life of these times — and 
he depicts it frankly. 

His street people gesticulate at us from 
street corners, vendors stare at us with dead 
eyes, whores beckon us into their lairs, pool 
players sneer at our passing, lovers, 
enwrapped in their feeling are oblivious to 
our presence. He takes us through the bars 
and the shebeens to the dark side of the citv 

^i* <fr' 

Luis Meque, (left from the top) The artist with The Poolroom, Lovers II, 

Love to Hate 

(above right) Harare City Life 

where dull stares and cupped hands demand 
money, to dingy rooms where beer has 
loosened tongues and tempers. Throughout 
the journey he points out the stark 
expressionless faces, or the backs of heads 
— all anonymous people, united in their 
experience of existence on the edge. All 
survivors ... for the time being. 

Luis Meque's paintings convey movement or 
lack of it — both expertly expres.sed 
through his wide bold brushwork (the 
exhibition might well have been called Life 
in the Line). He gives us the mood of these 
street situations, captures the spirit of the 
moment with his striking colours and simple 
strong strokes. Unhesitant, they show us this 
life — as it is — in your face. 

The small works are snapshots, a series of 
"postcards from the edge". They capture 
single heartbeats in the lives of these 
survivors, himself included — snapshots 
from the frontiers of experience. The artist 
is caught up in a world of extremes and his 

recording of these situations, these moods, 
these feelings, these places, these people all 
indicate a search. He searches with his 
strokes, his colours, searches to portray the 
spirit of the moment, and to understand why 
and how. 

Why does love turn to hate with so swift and 
violent a red stroke? Outcast, standing alone 
— why is she nobody's wife? Why are there 
jobless people, fighting over money? Luis 
Meque explores the current political and 
economic times of the city and the way that 
these powers intertw ine with the culture and 
the people. He portrays the belief of 
Africa's people and the mysticism of the 
land itself inextricably bound to the basic 
needs of the people. This is a hard life. A 
rough life. Luis does not show us delicate 
watercolour countrysides, or united pastel- 
happy families. He shows us the basics: 
strong colour, passionate strokes — life on 
the line. 
Christina Lutz 


Thapong — 1995 International 
Artists' Workshop Exhibition, 
National Gallery, Gaborone 

After two weeks of heat, sand and insects in 
Mahalapye. the Thapong International 
Artists" Workshop uproots and translocates 
200kms by road to the National Gallery in 
Gaborone, a venue which might have been 
purpose-built for the annual post-workshop 
show. At a stroke the sweat and toil of the 
workshop is transformed into presentability 
and elegance by the pristine white walls 
and floors of the gallery. A wonderfully 
designed building with high ceilings, 
alternative quiet areas and good lighting, 
the gallery is a curator's joy which has the 
ability to bring art to life. 

The Thapong show is good this year. There 
are some exceptional paintings on view 
with the work of the South African artists 
Reggi Bardavid and Amos Letsolo standing 
out in particular. There are surprises too. 
Canadian Libby Weir's large unstretched 
diptych entitled Kalahari Desert bears an 
uncanny resemblance to a painting 
produced a few years ago by Motswana 
artist Velias Ndaba, while another of hers 
entitled The Heat of the Kalahari could 
easily be mistaken for Thapong founder 
Veryan Edwards' work. Are we witnessing 
here the healthy cross-fertilisation of ideas 
or just the commonality of place, light and 

Edwards has produced some fresh work, far 
more purposeful and tough than the loose, 
amorphous style of her previous paintings. 
The mixed media floor piece by American 
Marisha Pels entitled Sesuaa (see page 1 ) 
is innovative in terms of its media (rubber, 
steel, wire and bone) and for the fact that it 
breaks away from the constraints of art 
which either hangs on walls or ascends 
vertically from the floor. Dias Mahlate 
from Maputo has the strongest of the 
sculptures on view, his wood pieces. Sonata 
and Dancer, resonating with a tempo that 
could only have been produced by a 
Mozambican or Angolan artist. 

In an exhibition marked by extremely 
strong abstract painting it was puzzling to 
note that virtually all of the purchases made 
by the Botswana National Gallery for its 
permanent collection were of lesser quality 
figurative work. A contrast was provided 
by the selection made by Motswana artist 
Philip Segola who, on behalf of the Bank of 
Botswana, selected much more innovative 
and interesting work. 

Thapong continues to be one of the best 
southern African artists' workshops and. 
along with its satellite workshops which 
focus on drawing, young artists and women 
artists, has been of crucial importance in 
the development of contemporary visual art 
in Botswana. Stephen Williams 



Dias Mahlate, Dancer (top) 

Veryan Edwards, Namib Journey (above) 

Heritage Exhibition, National 
Gallery, Harare, 1995 

Exhibitions selected by large juries 
inevitably result in compromise and 
although the 199? Heritage was a fair survey 
of much of the work being done in 
Zimbabwe, it was patently obvious that this 
was not the best work, better work being 
regularly seen at other venues throughout the 
year. But perhaps one of the problems with 
this exhibition may rather lie with the level 
of participation. A jury can after all only 
select from what is submitted. The current 
system of having 'invited artists', 'guest 
artists' and selectors showing work is 
detrimental and even they do not seem to 
enter their best work. Leading artists can no 
longer be bothered to submit work if they 
are not amongst the 'invited'. Commitment 
to participation must be regenerated if the 
National (jallery is to rescue the Heritage 
which is fast becoming a non-event. 

Yes, the work was better hung this year with 
the fewer works allowing some breathing 
spaee. And yes, the work was technically 
competent but, on the whole, it lacked 
passion, intellectual engagement, ambiguity. 

Amongst the works on this year's Annual 
which did make an impact on me was 
Bulelwa Madekurozwa's Changing Skins 
with its strong image and disturbing 
strangeness. A young woman, her face 
emerging from shadow, one hand passively 
dangling over a knee, stares out of a mask 
created by ritualistic daubs of red and black 
paint. This paint is transformed, becoming 
skin itself, overtaking her aggressively 
pointed breast and the lower half of her 
naked body. A black dog with 
indecipherable gaze and the foreboding 
darkness of the background into which the 
viewer is drawn before being catapulted 
back to the woman's eyes, combine to evoke 
a sense of the unknown. Colours, 
composition and intent work well to create a 
canvas replete with repressed violence and 
sexuality, the potency of superstition and 
ritual, and the psychological entrapment of 
the individual. 

Berry Bickle, Urban Displacement 

Another imposing piece was Berry Bickle's 
installation. Urlmn Displacement, with its 
drastic interpretation of contemporary 
African existence. Three stark iron bed 
frames are placed in formal line, covered not 
by the comfort of mattresses or blankets but 
by arid, barren earth in either dry sand or 
harsh red lone. The conflicting images 
disturb. In place of pillows, a broken clay 
pot and a rusted-through enamelled basin. 
In place of blankets, a covering of dry thorn 
branches. Now I lay me down to sleep? To 
sleep, perchance to dream? No. no comfort 
there. Rather an existence no longer 

bearable, a sense of tiltimate defeat. Are 
these beds or graves? Where once there was 
food, water, comfort, rest, there is now only 
the offer of death. Centrally placed on the 
wall above, drawing all into a formal 
composition, another dry thorn branch 
reaches upwards in a flare of desperation. 
The selected elements evoke traces of 
memory, shake out multiple references and 
challenge our complacency. 

So yes. there are good works around but 
why do so few of them make it to the 

Heritage? Why do so many of our leading 
artists feel it is not worth participating? A 
few members of the National Gallery's staff 
work overtime, to at least keep the National 
Gallery on the map, but they need support. 
Like Oliver, starving on pitiful rations, we 
want more but in this case we have to make 
it ourselves. There are no handouts. Energy, 
enterprise and innovation are hard work and 
depend on a genuine commitment to art. 
The art community as a whole need to help 
make the Heritage what we want it to be. 
Barbara Murray 

forthcoming exhibitions and events 

The Bulawayo National Gallery, looking 
beyond our borders, will show an exhibition 
of paintings by veteran Botswana painter 
Veryan Edwards in May. Also in May the 
public will be treated to an exhibition of 
work by Mozambican artists. This show 
is part of an exchange project which will 
also feature evening events at the gallery 
involving dancers and musicians from 
Mozambique. And in June, the director is 
putting together a show of work by Young 
artists, ten from Harare and ten from 
Bulawayo. The Bulawayo Gallery is also 
running a varied programme of events such 
as poetry readings, jazz, art videos and talks. 

In April, the Harare National Gallery will 
hosting an exhibition of work by French 
artists including Anton! Tapies, Henri 


Michaux, Andre Masson, GiacomettI, 
Alex Calder and others. Work by Austral- 
ian artists in a show entitled Aids in Art will 
also be on in April. In May. BAT Students 
will exhibit, and USIS will sponsor an 
exhibition of work from Bob Blackburn's 
Print Workshop including etchings, 
lithographs, monoprints. collographs etc. 
The National Schools Exhibition opens 
on .Saturday 1st of June. 

Gallery Delta will be hosting Graphics '96 
— line and form in April, to include work 
by Sarah Pratt, Arthur Azevedo, 
Shepard Mahufe, Gillian Rosselli, 
Bert Hemsteede, Harry Mutasa and 
Mary Davies amongst others. Work by 
sculptor. Richard Jack, will bring the 
show off the wall. 

Mid-April will see the opening of a show of 
work by the group of young painters that 
have been nurtured under the wing of 
Gallery Delta for the last few years. These 
artists include George Churu, FasonI 
Sibanda, Hillary Kashiri, Luis Meque, 
Justin Gope, Albert Wachi and Stanley 
Mapfumo. Their work has been able to 
develop immensely over this period and the 
exhibition will enable us to see the results of 
their ongoing struggle. 

In June. Pierre Gallery will be holding a 
group show of work by the teachers of the 
Harare Polytechnic Art Department includ- 
ing Sharon Dutton, Chico 
Chazunguza, Bulelwa Madekurozwa, 
Jane Shepherd, Kate Raath, Di 
Deudney, Mike White an others. 


barawell printers 


Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
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APEX coapOBJiTiON or zhmbabwe limited 

Joerg Sorgenicht 
Friedbert Lutz 

Crystal Candy 



June 1996 

2 At crossroads 

by Andrew Whaley 

7 Empire's offspring 2 

by Antiiony Chennells 

1 1 Zambian graphics 
by Grazyna Zaucha 

14 Richard Jack: looking beyond differences 
by Barbara Murray 

1 7 Letter from London 
by Margaret Garlake 

20 Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Front cover: Keston Beaton, Giant Ant, 1996, 27 x 53 x 16cm, 
found objects. Photo credit: Alan Allen 

Cover (detail) and back cover: Hillary Kashiri, Gateway. 1996, 24 x 
38cm, acrylic on paper. Photo credit: Hillary Kashiri 

Left: Albert Wachi, Body Music, 1995, approx Im tall, 

springstone and metals 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination: HPP Studios. Printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. 
Paper: Express from Graphtec Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

riptions from Gallery Publications, c/o Gallery Delta, 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue, RO. Box UA 373 Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: ( 14) 792135. 

Richard Witikani, Domestic Workers at Rest, 1996, 
110 X 80cm, mixed media 

George Churu, Nyau, 1996, 112 x 85cm, oil on canvas 

Tackson Muverzwa, Prayer, 1996, 137 x 91cm, oil on canvas Shepherd Mahufe, Tired, 1995, 108 x 82cm, mixed media 

"... artists can be expected to change 
direction without warning, at great danger 
and in breach of the highway code." 

Andrew Whaley looks at the context of the developing 
identities of a group of Zimbabwe's young artists 



It is not possible, not yet, most likely not 
ever, to put a dozen artists in a box and 
come up with a few handy epithets that 
explain them all. The artists whose work 
made up the recent Changing Directions 
exhibition at Gallery Delta are refusing to 

"It aggravates me," says Hillary Kashiri, 
who, at six foot three at a loose stretch, 
would be difficult to squash into any kind of 
box, literal or metaphorical. "I feel like 
challenging that labelling." Viewer, 
beware. This artist at least has a 'Handle 
With Care' warning. 

Hillary Kashiri is more vociferous than his 
art colleagues about being strapped down 
by generalisations about where he comes 
from. In trade lingo, the description goes 
something like this: Here are young black 
painters (yes, they are described as black) 
and a few sculptors who have resisted the 
mainstream impulse to hack at serpentine, 
who went through the BAT art school, who 
emerged with a modicum of hope and who, 
by the virtue of their own bootlaces, thick 
brushes and a despair with stone, have 
found they can make work that meets the 
changing perceptions in the art place or 
manifestly change perceptions through their 
art. Theirs was a direct challenge to the 

hegemony of stone sculpture. They have 
survived. Zimbabwe Stone has become 
ammunition in their slings. 

But the questions that faced Derek Huggins 
at Gallery Delta three years ago when he 
was trying to stoke up a reception for these 
young black artists out of local art school, 
remain unanswered: Who are they? What do 
they stand for? Are they good enough? 
Responses then were not so much hostile or 
even sceptical; it was simply a question of. 
Where do you put them? How can they be 

Not surprisingly, the artists themselves have 
had to face these questions much more 
acutely. They are, in one sense, a core of 
new indigenous artists working without the 
impermeable shield of a stone sculpture 
movement. By the same token, they have 
been able to avoid the overbearing 
spirituality of stone sculpture — the 'mabwe 
machismo' — that insists ad nauseam every 
sculptor is a prophet, every work a 
revelation. These artists have had to explore 
realms of spirit, philosophy and self- 
expression much more tentatively; building 
a vocabulary into a language. And in their 
own improvisations, the results have been 
faulty, clouded, gifted and epiphanal. These 
artists have had little hype to hang onto and 

no guarantees that they could ever earn 
recognition or money. In this sense, they 
could not afford stridency and, perhaps, they 
did not feel they had much to shout about. 
The hand of patronage also restrained them 
from the protruberant forms of 
indigenisation that characterises a vocal, 
indigenous business elite. 

There has been no direct attempt to 
appropriate this new core of black painters 
onto political platforms. Perhaps this is still 
to come. Yet it is precisely the artists' sense 
of difference in a largely white-owned and 
white-supported painting world that has 
spurred them on to new expressions — a 
raging internal dynamic that is constantly 
redefining itself. In a -majority culture the 
painters still provide the strains of a 
minority. The tendency has, therefore, been 
towards individuality. With so little 
consensus as to where these painters belong, 
the pressure for clarity, for the chance to be 
seen and understood has prompted rapid, 
zig-zagging changes in direction and focus. 

In embryonic form, these artists embodied 
the New Directions at Gallery Delta. In a 
more mature version, they are Changing 
Directions. But to grasp the meaning of the 
whole when individuals are changing 
direction at speed and without warning is 

Luis Meque, Me and My Land, 1996, 
108 X 83cm, mixed media 

Hillary Kashiri, /Wu/cuws/, 1996, 
112 X 81cm, acrylic on canvas 

lii<e analysing why the 'tshova' ahead of you 
indicated right and pulled over left. 

Art, like God and emergency taxis, moves in 
mysterious ways. But if you're inside an ET 
and have watched the driver tlick down his 
indicator to turn right and then he deliberately 
pulls left, you will know — from the inside 
— that the reason is mostly quite logical and 
that someone has called from the boot to be 
put down here. Which is what the driver 
does. He obeys calls from within. He will 
not care that anyone behind him has just 
accelerated on the inside to within three feet 
of an oncoming calamity. The point being 
made here is that artists can be expected to 
change direction without warning, at great 
danger and in breach of the highway code. 
This is their right to life, their liberty and their 
only pursuit of happiness. 

This brief digression which seemed 
completely off the point has really hit the 
nail on the head. If there is any common 
link between the artists changing directions. 
It is not that they are black or received 
training under the National Gallery's BAT 
workshop (which is as evident as saying that 
ET drivers must get a licence at the VID); it 
is that they have held on to the notion of art 
as way of life, of desire, of work — made 
possible certainly by the emancipation of 
which the BAT workshop in the 80s was a 
crucial detail. 

Three years ago. form dominated content. 
The artists tended to paint life as set pieces, 
the equivalent of theatre viewed through the 
proscenium arch. Survival in the market 
place has helped to change that. Ideas have 
loosened up. been honed. A growing 
acceptance has brought daring, clarification 
and. most tellingly, a sharper articulation. 
This is a process in which a messy uprooting 
accompanies fresh insights. Tensions more 
rapidly assert themselves even within the 
fires of a single work of art. Choices 
multiply under pressure. Confronted by the 
bewildering possibilities of themselves, the 
artists have not shrugged responsibility; they 
have not run for safe cover. In fact, their 
work becomes increasingly a wild array of 
disclosures fuelled by discovery. 

Listen to the artists' names: George Churu, 
Justin Gope. Misheck Gudo. Hillary Kashiri. 
Shepherd Mahufe. Luis Meque. Tackson 
Muver/wa. Fasoni Sibanda. Ishmael 
Wilfred, the painters; and sculptors. Keston 
Beaton, Crispen Matekenya, Stanley 
Mapfumo and Albert Wachi. In alphabetical 
order, they read like a school register. In 
reality, they have strong individual qualities, 
a latent sense of ditterencc. 

Keston Beaton, a sculptor and at 32 a virtual 
granddad to the BAT pack, sees the grouping 
of young artists together as "somi'thini; 
unique" . For him, it is a "ftiinily ciffiiir". "ll 
is history," he says. "We grew oiii oftluit. 

We have carried it over into life." The 
gallery workshop was a grounding. Being 
black and a painter is a common source. 
The extended family may be broad, 
problematic, even diffuse but it is also an 
umbrella. "There is no way that I could 
make myself an exception," he says. 

The analogy with the old emergency taxi 
(pirate, tshova. ET or whatever you call it) 
may not be so entirely fanciful. These artists 
are not only products of sanctions, war. 
closed economy and structural adjustment, 
they are also "children ofemerf^ency". as I 
heard writer Chenjerai Hove once describe 
the way our self-censoring minds battled 
with three decades of Emergency Powers 
regulations, presidential edicts and 
constitutional tinkerings. These artists 
essentially use water-based paints, poster 
paints. Oil is a real luxury. Some use PVA 
which they buy in hardware stores. They 
use fat household paint brushes and have no 
qualms about painting freely on bolts of 
brown cardboard rolled out of Hunyani 
paper. Costs once determined this, but it has 
become a kind of style, a rebellion against a 
so-called established order. 

In a context where painters feel themselves 
to be out of known history — or maybe in 
the business of reclaiming lost histories — 
the repossession of voice and expression is a 
powerful stimulant, simply because self- 
discovery is so cogently allied to an entire 
society manifesting itself. 

Their problem is not to seek one voice or 
style but to find the discipline that will 
contain many possibilities competing for 
expression. The artist may be torn between 
the urge to jot down anything and everything 
and his caution at needing to find an 
essence. This is a battle between expressive 
urges and a desire for distillation. 

Hillary Kashiri ob.serves the tension acutely. 
Politely brushing off the hand of patronage, 
he realises the quandary of the artist who is 
himself the subject of conflicting attentions; 
who falls prey to contesting ideologies; who 
has been claimed by others. "/ have been 
owned." he confesses. "/ have been. But as 
y(ni grow and mature, you look into yourself. 
I had to stand up and say: Who am I 
painting for? What am I? I've got to be 
myself now. I feel as artists we have to look 
into ourselves first — before art'' 

It is only through art that the self, which pre- 
existed art. can be reclaimed. That which 
was once purely, abundantly expressive must 
be re-discovered via the relative world ol 
expression. This suggests that art is an 
acknowledgement of Original Sin in a 
Christian worid, a realisation that part of 
ourselves which was whole, has been lost. 
But the process of re-discovery changes 
what was there in the first place and begs the 
question that it was ever there at all. In our 

Zimbabwean context, the parallel between 
Original Sin and colonisation is clear. But 
does this assume that colonisation, like sin, 
was pre-ordained, a miserable /«/7 accompUl 
Or that a post-independent artist is forced to 
come to terms with the fact of history? 
Whether the artist's battle is with the stain of 
sin or with the taint of colonisation or both, 
work changes everything. What the artist 
imagines can be restored of the pre- 
colonised self is transformed by the act of 
seeking. Thus. Witikani is not painting a 
traditional hut in a field of grass. He paints 
what later you see is a hut. from the path as 
he walks, from his point of view, at a pace 
that feels rhythmic and right. Like the other 
painters in this disparate group, his work 
represents a return to self, one that is not 
burdened by the screech and trauma of an 
outsider's view of the colonised. The 
painters, like Witikani. are making no claims 
for a dramatic return to tradition or 
bottomline spiritual virtues espoused by a 
body of male sculptors. In many ways, these 
painters cling to the little values, honest 
assessments, understatements, a feminine 
principle that stresses tiny bursts of light and 
emotion — the miracle of re-inventing self. 
These painters, much more than the 
sculptors who are famous, are overthrowing 
the dominant creeds and overweening 
teleologies of our times. And they are doing 
it right in front of our eyes. 

They struggle against censorious attitudes, 
disbelieving families and their own fear of 
stalling before expression has taken shape. 
Miraculously — and this has only happened 
in the last two years — this bunch of artists 
has begun to get away from us. from 
themselves. The emergency artists are up 
and running and flouting the rules of the 

Ishmael Wilfred is an artist who goes his 
own way. He pays no heed to rules of form 
or line or composition. Yet his own 
combination is often bewildering and quite 
brilliant. Wilfred obeys the voice from 
within. Difficult to comprehend from the 
outside, his works are luminous tales of 
survival. Riding, with its strutting, 
triumphant riders has the exuberant quality 
of jockeys in a race but it is only when you 
see them as witches on hyena-back that they 
become witty, dangerous flyers. Wilfred's 
taste for the ghoulish comes straight out of 
dreams. Cannibal After a Head is the 
painter's fascination for a story he read in 
the paper. There is a sense of interpretation 
here. But in Two Tokoloshe — where he 
struggles with form to quell the demons of 
the night — and in Red Cat. which is a one- 
on-one battle with life and consciousness, 
Wilfred engages his dreams. 

Red Cat was a real-life prophetic dream. He 
knew that the alien animal meant trouble — 
and a n'anga confirmed the fear. "Where in 
life have you ever seen a red cat?" In his 

case, it was the signal that he was ill. A 
cancer had broken out in his face and 
Wilfred has had to have most of his jaw 

For the artist, painting Red Cat was not just 
soothing therapy; it was an exorcism. I 
asked him: Did he feel better when he had 
painted if He answered: "}'«." 
emphatically. Was he now better then' I 
asked. He said he was. Did this mean that 
by painting he had painted the red cat out of 
himself? His nod was final: "Out." he said. 

The interesting thing is that the painting 
superimposes the dream. Its reality becomes 
more demanding and tangible than the 
dream itself. I asked Wilfred what he felt 
about the painting now. He said that the 
thought of the red cat still pained him but it 
could not trouble him. But when he closes 
his eyes and imagines the painting 
everything fades except the red cat which, 
although only a small part of the picture, is 
branded red hot on the memory's retina. 

By uprooting these dream messengers and 
planting them in paint. Ishmael Wilfred finds 
clarity in the turbulence. The red cat which 
stalks the dreamer can be studied for the first 
time. It has to be explained and, in so doing, 
it becomes the mulch for story and myth 
which the artist must speak about. Wilfred 
simply wants to "pass the message onto 
them." Through paint he can unearth "things 
I could not speak about." 

The artist as story-teller is probably a key to 
much good art. In the emergence of these 
young artists the desire to tell a story is keen. 
Luis Meque, hailed as leader of the BAT 
pack, has realised the economy of story- 
telling, reducing recent pieces to a few 
slashes, a black cloud, a furious presence, a 
mood, a swipe at a woman, some whiplash 
of anger. This is the frustration at not being 
understood, at not understanding. Meque's 
work, more than any of the others, is a shout 
— as if, in the simple expulsion of air and 
emotion, meaning is better expressed. The 
feeling one gets from Meque is that he is 
pretty cheesed off with nice, elegant 
outpourings. He's broken out of a civilised 
skin that kept him admirably composed and 
unleashed a wizardry. He is able to get the 
feeling, the pleasure, the pain or whatever it 
is, and master it and siap it down. If he was 
one of those karate performers, he'd be 
breaking bricks. 

A similar desire is there in Hillary Kashiri 
but his painting agonises over the perfecting 
of it. Unlike Ishmael Wilfred who has found 
painting can be medicine or Meque who puts 
feelings down in colour. Kashiri has not yet 
found a way to reconcile the privacy of 
subject and colour with public display. In 
many ways, he is the romantic of the group 
who sees dazzling light inside dark showers. 
He wants to paint the storm where Meque 


^^*%,' . \ ij 

(top) Ishmael Wilfred, The Red Cat, 
1996, 80 X 60cm, mixed media 
(above) Ishmael Wilfred, Two Tokolshe, 
1996, 59 X 39cm, mixed media 

Keston Beaton, 
Harp, 1995, approx. 
70 X 60cm, 
found objects 

has learned to be it. 
Kashiri is candid 
about the struggle: 
"/ am going through 
a process. lam 
growing up. I am 
trying to make a 
way for myself. 
make a road where 
there was no road!' 

In opening up the way. the 
artists face themselves in 
front of a community that is 
sceptical. As Keston Beaton, the 
sculptor, remarks: "Family prefer 
\ou being a hank teller to being an 
artist. You have to bring yourself out 
It's YOU who is an artist!' 

In as much as anyone of these artists has 
found the way. Keston Beaton has. There is 
a kind, lyrical quality to all his work that 
embraces common sense, poetry and 
toughness. Beaton specialises in making 
musical instruments, often wind instruments. 
He makes insects as well — all out of found 
objects. These are truly works of 
reclamation requiring courage and 
practicality. His pieces fly. They sing. "It's 
almost the .tame as music!' he says. "If you 
are an artist, you are trying to do the same 
thing as being a musician ... You want it to 
be a scidpture. You want to sound differently 
— but in a visual way." 

A way of seeing clicked into place when he 
discovered the work of British sculptor. Ann 
Carrington. Good examples unlock the craft 
and focus the vision. With Beaton, 
interestingly, it is a question of the artist 
turning himself inside out. He talks 
poetically about "inside and outside" as if 
this is a metaphor for all the artist's lives. 

"There are examples in history. Some were 
as crazy as they wanted to be. others have 
lost the way!' 

And hii -if? He answers with no him of 
the bom-again at his back (thank (iod): "/ 
O have seen the light!' 

Beaton describes the artist's experience as 
like a day. "In the middle of the morning, 
it's the same sun as it was at dawn. It's how 
to make the day out of your sunrise. You say. 
let me start my day afresh. It's a matter of 
making it a full day!' 

For Beaton, man is. without a shadow of 
doubt, in the middle of creation. He makes, 
he does, he creates. Some days are "on-off' 
but every day is a creation best made the 
most of. And, if plain facts are wanted, the 
spiritual path can never be left. Beaton's 
works are not great sellers in the market 
perhaps because they are viewed as whimsy 
not as fine examples of the actualised self. 

It may be interesting to end with snippets of 
a conversation between some of these 
individuals about their position as artists 
among family, community, society. There is 
Hillary Kashiri. Keston Beaton, a silent 
Ishmael Wilfred and the young Charles 
Kamangwana. a versatile artist at the edge ot 
the road, trying to Hag down our artist's 

wheit you have a 
drink with a fellow 

Beaton: "Some of 
these guys we drink 
with have no idea 
what we do. We are 
schizophrenic ... 
criminal!' (He laughs.) 
Kamangwana: "Nobody 
really understands what 
you are doing, what your 
aims are. what your life is 
like... maybe it's colonisation. 
You have to be a white collar 
worker to be taken seriously!' 
Kashiri: "Until they see you in the 
Kamangwana: "I^ow the reverse comes, 
because they think you have millions." 
Beaton (chuckling): "Drinks all round!" 
Kamangwana: "And they refer all their 
problems to you." 
Kashiri: "They think you 've got more than 
they have. People relate to role models!' 

The conversation veers into the absurd, 
about how to detect an artist. Does an artist 
look like he has the light in him. Mostly, the 
artists agree that what's inside, that which 
makes you create, is often camouflaged 
behind a very dull face. People don't 
suspect the artist in you. There is much 
hilarity at this kind of pantomime. And then 
we start talking about what is inside and how 
difficult it can be to make sense of it. 

One thing is clear, all these artists want to be 
seen and heard. They crave exposure — for 
themselves, sure, but also for the "lighf 
they have seen or experienced. As Ishmael 
Wilfred looked on. quietly, knowingly, 
Keston Beaton the poet had this to say: 

"7 want to gel exposed, not frustrated. 
People have lived with slowne.ts and there is 
no way you can rush it ... Yes. recognition ... 
but I don 't panic. I don 't .thake or feel 
insecure because I feel there's recognition 
somewhere, some da\!' 

Kashiri: "h is very difficult to talk about my Yes. there is. .'\ntl probably sooner than 
work in our community. The best lime is anyone thought 

Post-colonialism as it is used in cultural studies means everything which 
happens after the first colonial impacts. According to this theory, post- 
colonialism continues after independence since although the state is 
independent, it has been radically altered. In this second part of his 
article, Anthony Chennells looks at post-colonial influence in the work of 
black Zimbabwean artists. 

Empire's offspring 2 

When the Jesuits trekked nonh from 
Grahamstown to commence their Zambesi 
Mission. Mrs Orpen. a recent convert to 
Catholicism, gave them an oil painting 
which they carried into the interior It was a 
crucifixion scene where the crucified Christ 
is shown surrounded by "Zulu Chiefs 
kneeling and wrapt in reverential 
astonishment" . ( 1 ) At the Jesuits' 
Gubulawayo station, the chapel, as is 
customary, was hung with paintings 
depicting the fourteen stations of the cross. 
An early visitor to the chapel was an 
Ndebele aristocrat identified only by the 
royal name Khumalo. The narrative which 
the stations trace was explained to him but 
when he reached the twelfth station, where 
Christ dies on the cross, "a smile of 
incredulity touched his lips". He said to Fr 
Croonenberghs: "That is not possible. No. 
Jesus Christ cannot be the Son of God." 
And Croonenberghs notes that "the Cross of 
Jesus will always be a scandal and a 
madness in the eyes of human wisdom". (2) 
King Lobengula commanded to be shown 
around the chapel and he too was struck by 
the station depicting Christ's death. After 
contemplating it for some minutes, "he 
began to protest against the infamous 
barbarity of White people who had so 
cruelly tortured the Saviour" but was 
"deeply moved" when he was told that this 
was the intention of God. (3) 

These anecdotes surrounding the first 
Western paintings publicly exhibited in 
Zimbabwe are instructive of the competing 
interpretations post-colonialism's various 
constituencies can make of the same sign. 
Mrs Orpen's painting was completed within 
the months following the great Zulu victory 
at Isandhlwana and cannot be read simply as 
another expression of the Christian hope that 
all humanity will bow to Christ. In the 
context of 1879. her kneeling Zulus have to 
be seen in directly colonial terms: Europe 
has at its disposal the ideological apparatus 
to awe and astonish people whom British 
arms cannot vanquish. In Matabeleland, the 

crucifixion is interpreted through a value 
system which Europe likes to think is not its 
own. A God who allows his son to get 
crucified is unsatisfactory to an aristocrat of 
a society largely shaped around military 
hierarchies. The old noble is certainly not 
going to kneel beneath the gibbet of an 
obvious failure. Since there are presumably 
no Zulus in the stations' crucifixion, the king 
cannot learn the lesson which Mrs Orpen's 
painting is designed to inculcate. Instead of 
recognizing European power, he is shocked 
at European barbarity, and it is only after 
Croonenberghs has offered a theology of the 
cross that the king acquires an understanding 
which is correct in Croonenberghs' terms. 
Lobengula's long silence implies that he 
recognises the symbolic economy of the 
Atonement and that only from death are 
biiih and resurrection possible, that suffering 
is creative. 

Different responses to the same image speak 
to the instability of the image. Culture and 

temperament allow the viewer to refuse the 
intention of the artist or the belief system out 
of which art grows. 

In this case we can be more precise in 
identifying the source of that instability. The 
cross is mediated through a number of 
interpreters: Mrs Orpen. appalled at the Zulu 
victory in Natal; Fr Croonenberghs. 
providing an orthodox Pauline reading of 
what the cross means; the Ndebele king and 
aristocrat, testing the adequacy of the cross 
against Ndebele ideologies and prejudices. 
Croonenberghs' hopes as a missionary serve 
to filter meanings and to control our 

Finally there is my intervention. I have 
brought together scattered references to two 
different paintings and out of them have 
made a single narrative. My late 20th 
century scepticism at the stability and 
permanence of beliefs has biased the 
narrative which I have constructed out of 

Senserina Phlllimon,7/7e Birth of Jesus , (undated 
c. 1965?), 20 X 29cm, pencil and crayon on paper 


Adam and Eve, 1 964, 
70 X 100cm, oil on 
canvas (NGZ: PC- 





Jesuit missionaries, two crucifixion 
paintings, and the Ndebele rulers. 

In the tlnst part of this article I spoke of the 
double consciousness of Europe's settlers as 
long as they regard the metropolitan centre 
as the source of cultural certainty. (4) For 
the colonised, however, the problem of 
centre is more acute. Some racial memory, 
however inexact, connects whites with 
metropolitan cultures. For the colonised, 
metropolitan culture has almost invariably 
been imposed on them against their wishes. 
Its presence in their lives cannot be seen in 
the traces of a previous existence. 
Colonialism nevertheless demanded that the 
colonised accommodate metropolitan 
practices and justified the demand because 
of the colonisers' belief that the metropole's 
knowledge is superior and its cultural 
practices morally normative. 

An obvious site for this claim is religion: the 
religion of the metropole is offered as 
rational and truthful while the colonised's 
religion is designated as superstition and 
idolatry. Even when the colonised adopts 
the new faith, he or she is a neophyte, who 
must undergo a long period of testing before 
being allowed to speak with authority on 
behalf of the new spiritual order. During 
Africa's de-colonising decades, 
Christianity's role in coloiusation was a 
frequent target of African nationalist 
polemic. Walter Rodney, for example, notes 
thai, '7'/" scrviiifi rolonialixm. the church 
often took up the role ofcirhiter of what wci.t 
culturally correct." (5) Nineteenth-century 
missionaries conflated Christian morality 
with the social practices of middle-class 
Europe and America, and a measure of 
Christian conviction was the familiarity 

converts demonstrated with alien social 

Post-colonialism has been particularly 
concerned to show the way in which this 
imposition of the coloniser's customs was 
resisted. The Khumalo aristocrat weighed 
the cross against his cultural preconceptions 
and found it wanting. But this was not so 
much resistance as the cultural reflex of a 
privileged conservative. The king found in 
the painting a confirmation of European 
caielty. The most effective form of 
resistance has been when the colonised 
appropriates the idioms of the new order, 
whether they be guns or ideas, and turns 
them back against the metropole. In 
Anglophone Africa, religion has been the 
most accessible idea within imperialism, if 
only because in the 19th century the 
missionary lobby in London was so strong 
that few politicians wished to tangle with it. 
Not surprisingly then, in Zimbabwe the first 
black writers and painters of the modern age 
were Christians. They were also usually 
nationalist politicians. Mrs Orpen was 
wrong in anticipating that a submission to 
Christ would be a submission to Britain. 
Zimbabwe's Christian painters may kneel 
before the cross but they do not kneel in 
order to admire white culture. They have 
both appropriated Christianity and allowed it 
to become another facet of the multiple 
facets of Zimbabwean culture. (6) 

There are many ways in which the scnuotics 
of colonial religion can be appropriated. 
The Black Christ is the most obvious of 
these. In painting Christ as African. Africa's 
artists do what European artists have done 
for a thousand years; Europe proclaims its 
shared humanity with Christ by making Him 

racially and culturally European. Africa has 
confidently done the same. 

A local cultural appropriation of Christianity 
can be seen in a drawing from the Serima 
school by Sen.serina Phillimon. The Birth of 
Jesus is set among the rocks and villages of 
the Mashonaland landscape although their 
literal reproduction is less important than the 
pattern of repeated curves which the rocks 
are made to describe, and which recurs in 
the tree shapes. The landscape is reduced to 
.semi-circles and they and the triangles of the 
pitched thatched roofs of the homestead 
recall the patterns on Shona baskets, pots 
and walls. The human figures are the 
familiar agents of the nativity story but the 
artist has domesticated them within the 
decorative patterns of Shona material 

Thomas Mukarobgwa's Adam ami Eve has 
already been reproduced in Gallerx but it 
lends itself to a more detailed analysis than 
space allowed on the previous occasion. (7) 
It is a landscape with figures which the title 
identifies as the Eden of Genesis. The 
painting is shaped around strong diagonals 
which stabilise the two figures at its centre. 
Between the figures, the green tangled 
branches of a tree refer to the Tree of 
Knowledge. The taller figure — the Adam 
of the title, the right-hand figure has a 
woman's body — emerges Irom the left ot 
the painting, from a patch of sombre colour, 
criss-crossed with dead branches which 
contrast with the living colour of the central 
tree. The most striking feature of the 
painting is on its right. The green section at 
the base is moulded to suggest both top and 
side of a steep hill and the sense of its height 
is accentuated by the blue section which 

borders it to the right. Beyond the bkie, and 
on the edge, is a rectangle of Hght colour 
veined with blue. It seems a landscape, seen 
from above as one sees Nyanga's lowlands 
from the top of its escarpments, crossed with 
rivers whose sources lie beneath the flanks 
of the hillside. 

However else one reads this painting, its title 
insists that it is addressing the origin myth of 
Genesis but it is also appropriating it. 
making it Zimbabwean by locating the 
human agents of Eden within a Zimbabwean 
landscape. Perhaps more is being attempted 
than that. Is there not a re-writing of the 
Genesis story itself? In a story concerned 
with the Fall, 1 cannot read the great height 
on the right without finding the Fall 
metaphorically present in hillside and valley. 
But if the section at the right of the painting, 
which is suffu.sed with light, lies outside 
Eden, to reach it seems gain rather than loss. 
The single river which forms the waterfall of 
the top left hand comer has been replaced 
with many streams. Light, water and 
multiple possibilities seem to lie in that far- 
off valley. 

Christianity is a powerful centre of 
contemporary Africa's spiritual life but 
Africa's cultural productions will frequently 
be informed by a spirituality which owes 
nothing to Christianity. Landscape as a site 
for spiritual presences can be seen in Chris 
Chipfuya's Motinrain Landscape. Like 
Mukarobgwa's landscape, its different 
sections provide a sense of heights and 
valleys. A mountain in the centre of the top 
quarter of the painting can. as one shifts 
one's gaze, become a field viewed from 
above. Each discrete area is outlined with a 
thick brush stroke so that one sees 
differences before noting how each section 
fits together. Separation and inter- 
connectedness are simultaneously 
proclaimed. At first glance, the red. brown, 
blue and green at the centre bottom of the 
painting seem merely to repeat the 
suggestion of ploughed field in the top right- 
hand comer. But the zig-zag lines crossing 
the bottom section affirm that on this part of 
the landscape humanity has put its mark. 
Tower and wall begin to insist on their 
presence. They not only provide the outline 
for this section but recall Great Zimbabwe. 
The man-made city has a central place 
within the landscape and it makes its own 
contribution to the landscape's spirituality. 

Chipfuya's painting is more than landscape 
then. It is in part a theological statement 
about the function of land within a Shona 
consciousness which here at least is not 
touched by Christianity. Shona spirituality 
affirms the wholeness of all creation: 
everything belongs and everything has its 
place. Included in that everything are the 
patterned walls and tower. This is more than 
an amorphous celebration of nature's 
sacredness. The creativity of human society 

(top) Chris Chipfuya, Mountain Landscape, 1996, 51 x 66cm, 
watercolour and textile Ink on paper 

(above) Chris Chipfuya, Zimbabwe Pre and Post Independence, 
1996, 39 X 60cm, watercolour and textile Ink on paper 

Hillary Kashiri, Kumasowe, 1996, 40 x 52cm, acrylic on paper 

expressed in the greatest of Zimbabwe's pre- 
colonial monuments has a place within a 
spiritual order that is both natural and social. 

Chipfuya's Zimbabwe Pre and Post 
Independence addresses another 
manifestation of the artificial. A 
conventional enough landscape provides the 
top frame of the painting: trees, distant and 
near hills, painted with browns and dull reds 
which recall Zimbabwe's recent droughts. 
Beneath it, however, straight diagonal lines, 
in colours which derive little from nature, 
dominate the picture. On one level it is 
another mountain landscape, with the 
straight lines suggesting fields viewed from 
above. But the lines, in the modernity of 
their colours, insist on their presence both as 
artifact and as a new source of order. Their 
colours refer to flags and, within the 
rectangles which they form, the brightest 
colours of nature are contained. If the linked 
parts in the previous landscape address the 
harmony between humanity, the soil and the 
spirit world, in this painting it is the shaping 
power of the new nation which is 
triumphantly foregrounded. Order and 
exuberance have replaced that dry frieze of 
rocks and trees. 

Colonised Zimbabwe and its liberation are 
often, in our literature, referred to in terms of 
drought and rain. This painting implies 
something more ambivalent than those 
simple oppositions can contain. The fact 
that the lines are so Western in their coloring 
complicates any reading which suggests that 
at Independence Zimbabwe recovered its 
authentic being. Instead the lines signify an 
independent Zimbabwe inscribed both with 
its pre-colonial and its colonial histories. In 
politics as in Christianity, Zimbabwe has 
appropriated something foreign and used it 
to construct its contemporary self 

Christianity has not remained the property of 
the mainstream churches which have their 
local foundations in 19th century missionary 
work. When I saw Hillary Kashiri's 
Kumasowe at a recent Delta exhibition, I 
was struck by both the painting and the title. 
The painting shows a circle of the granite 
boulders which are so prominent a feature of 
our landscape but here they are not offered 
with the solidity of rock on earth. Instead 
they protrude from water on which they 
seem to lloat. The date shows thai this was 
painted after one of the best rainy seasons in 
years and the hard dry colours which create 
the rocks refuse to dominate. Instead it is a 
painting which celebrates wetness: sky and 
water blot out the horizon so that there is a 
constant interchange between them. Any 
danger that the wet will oppress is avoided 
by the light in the top left-hand comer which 
balances the dark blue in the opposite lower 
corner and, between these oppositions, there 
is the constant movement of water. 

1 Simply to read this painting as a celebration 

of an abundant rainy season conveys some 
of its quality. The title, however, offers 
other clues to enhance our reading. 
Kumasowe is a favourite meeting place of 
the Apostolics who, despite their various 
divisions, testify in their ritual to their 
Christian base and their refusal to allow 
Christianity to be an expression of Western 
domination. The Apostolics meet out-of- 
doors, a symbolic rejection, in the days of 
segregation, of a land carved out between 
black and white. Not only is segregation 
rejected: Maranke's Apostolic church 
regarded itself as occupying the spiritual 
space between a white-dominated church 
and traditional religion. Wherever the 
Apostolics are there is the church and where 
they worship, a simple arrangement of 
stones on the ground marks the divisions of 
the New Temple. The rocks in the painting 
of this Apostolic site delineate a natural 
temple. As important to the Apostolics as 
their mobility is their belief that they are the 
source of a new baptism. In the same way 
as they reject buildings for worship so the 
water for their baptism is drawn directly 
from the rivers of Zimbabwe. In Kashiri's 
painting, an absence of a distinction between 
sky and earth, the fact that this water has not 
been made available by technology, 
proclaims that this water flows directly from 
heaven. Here is a place of worship and a 
means of baptism which God and Zimbabwe 
make possible. 

Colonialism is a fact of history and everyone 
in Zimbabwe is caught up in its 
consequences. I have spoken of belief the 
belief of missionaries but also the religious 
beliefs of Zimbabweans which may derive 
from Christianity or from a faith that land is 
held on behalf of the ancestors for those who 
are yet to come. Belief can constitute 
subjects other than the spiritual. 
Zimbabwe's freedom and its potential as a 
nation inform the second of Chipfuya's 
paintings and a secular conviction is given 
the vitality of an apocalypse. In the 
founding of their churches, the Apostolics 
challenged the right of the settler state and 
the missionary churches to stand between 
them and God. Confident of their own 
merits through Christ, they defied colonial 
mediation. But have we now. 16 years into 
our own independence, recovered the 
authentic identity which colonialism 
transgressed? The answer must surely be 
no. In the 90 years of colonialism in 
Zimbabwe, new material realities were 
created and out of them grew corresponding 
states of consciousness which are 
reproduced in our cultural life. Ours is a 
culture which is constantly rejecting 
es.scntialist identities. Consider 
Zimbabwean nationalism, the Apostolics, the 
Liberation War. the claims and counter- 
claims of what constitutes indigenous. ,Sam 
Levy's village (a monument to a cultural 
nostalgia whose subject has been displaced 
from England via southern California before 

emerging, triumphantly tacky, in the middle 
of Africa), Harare's Carlton Club, formerly 
The Copacabana (names to brood on as one 
listens to the club's authentic Zimbabwean 
music), and the lovely colonial buildings 
which house Gallery Delta and the 
Bulawayo Art Gallery. 

In a post-colonial age, all cultures are hybrid 
and necessarily so because any culture is 
shaped from the accretions of history and 
post-colonial history grows from many 
different roots. Double or indeed multiple 
consciousness becomes a weakness only 
when its diffusions are regarded as a source 
of shame: when the white Zimbabwean sees 
it as interfering with an authentic European 
identity say. But it is not only the white 
African who is affronting history when he or 
she searches for an authenticity which 
cannot exist. As the pictures 1 have discussed 
in this article suggest, even when black 
Zimbabweans are celebrating a nationhood 
won through war, they use, and quite 
correctly use, among other idioms and 
perspectives, the idioms and perspectives of 
the coloniser to make their claims and 
assertions. In the act of appropriation, 
however, these cease to be the intellectual 
property of the coloniser. Not only is 
multiple consciousness not a weakness, it is 
the only way in which black or white can 
apprehend the past which has created our 
complex and constantly changing identities. 


1 . Fr Law to Fr Weld. 2 1 April 1 879. in Gubulunuytt and 
Bt'Mmd: Letters and Journals of the Early Jesuit 
Missionaries to Tximhesia 1 1 H79- 1 HH7 ) ed. Michael 
Gelfand. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1968, p 67. 

2. Letter from Fr Croonenberghs. 16 October 1880. in 
Joitmey to Gubtdawayo: Letters of Frs H. Depelehin 
and C. Croonenberghs. 5J. 1879. ISSO. ISHI trans, 
Moira Lloyd, ed, R.S. Roberts. Bulawayo: Books of 
Rhodesia,1979. p.lLS, 

.^, Letter from Fr Croonenberghs, 27 November 1880. 
ihid. p .135. 

4, Galleiy no 7 (March 1996). p .1. 

.S. Waller Rodney. How Europe Underdeveloped 

,t/ni n. 1972; rpt, Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House. 
n.d.l 1983). p 278, 

6, Accounts of two Christian art centres can he ttunid in 
A,B. Plangger and M. Diethelni eds. Serima: Towards 
alt African Expression of Christian Belief. Gweru: 
Mambo Press, 1977: and David AC. Walker. Paterson 
of Cyreiie: A Biography. Gweru; Mambo Press. 1985. 
For Christianity and writers see Flora Veil- Wild. 
Teachers. Preachers. Nim-Believers: A Social Hi.^tory 
of Zinihahwean Literature. London: Hans Zell. 1992 
and Harare: Baobab. 1 993. pp 1 7- 1 9. 45-52. For the 
way in which guerillas during the war. depending on 
their backgrounds, used Christianity or 

traditional religion as nispiration see TO, Ranger. 
■"Holy tncn and niral communities in Zimbabwe. 
197(1-1980" in W,J, Shiels ed. The Church and War. 
Vol 20. Oxford: Blackwcll, 1983. 

7, Gallery no 5 (.September 1995). p 16, 

Edilor's note: In pan one. "Empire's offspring ' in 
Gallery no 7. reference was incorrectly made to Fanon. 
The writer referred to was. in fact. Foucault, 

Grazyna Zaucha, art historian and curator of the Choma 
Museum, investigates the growth of graphic art in Zambia 

, Zambia 

identities In print 

Zambian Graphics: A Retrospective 
Exhibition of Printmaking in Zambia 
opened at the Choma Museum, Zambia, on 
9 March 1996, featuring 60 works of nine 
artists from various private collections. 
While emphasising individual 
achievements, the exhibition is at the same 
time, a testimony to the successful 
introduction of this art form in Zambia. A 
general tendency towards figurative 
representation is apparent but a more recent 
trend towards abstraction and experimental 
work is also evident. The exhibition shows 
clearly that the artists are not so much 
concerned with breaking new ground as 
with using the Western techniques in order 
to explore their own identities. 

On display are the works of exponents such 
as Cynthia Zukas. practising graphic artist 
since 1964, and Henry Tayali, the first 
formally trained black Zambian artist. 
These are boldly counterpointed by the 
mainly black and white prints of the Lusaka 
Artists Group, Bert Witkamp, David 
Chibwe, Fackson Kulya and Patrick 
Mweemba. The new directions are 
reflected in the works of Andrew 
Makromalis. Lutanda Mwamba and Patrick 

There are various interpretations as to 
when, how and why this particular art form 
became embedded in Zambia. Two 
explanations of the beginnings of the 
Zambian graphics are particularly popular. 

(top) Bert Witkamp, Beauty is a Cure 
for Madness, 1980, 15 x 20cm, linocut 

(above) Henry Tayali, Madam and the 
Rains, 1982, 40 x 23cm, woodcut 

One opinion has it that printmaking became 
a major art form in Zambia due to 
difficulties in obtaining art materials. This 
interpretation alludes to the economic 
problems which Zambia started to face from 
the mid 70s onwards. It cannot be denied 
that the production and dissemination of 
certain art forms might be constrained by the 
economy. However a clo.ser look at 
printmaking reveals that techniques such as 
etching, wood cutting, lino cutting and 
screen printing involve specialised materials 
which may be expensive and not easily 
obtained. Leaving aside the complicated 
requirements of etching and the relative 
simplicity of screen printing, even wood and 
lino cutting require base materials, knives, 
printing inks, papers, rollers and a relief 
press. Therefore an argument based solely 
on economics does not offer a sufficient 

The second opinion as to the emergence and 
popularisation of graphic art in Zambia 
accords overriding importance to the Art 
Centre Foundation, together with the 
influence of the two artists most closely 
associated with it, Cynthia Zukas and Henry 
Tayali. The Art Centre Foundation (ACF) 
was established as a national body 
responsible for the promotion of visual art in 
Zambia. To this end. the Foundation 
maintained the national collection of art and 
organised annual exhibitions. Its direct 
contribution to the development of 
printmaking consisted of providing a 11 

working space for artists at the Evelyn Hone 
College in Lusaka. 

The role of Cynthia Zukas and Henry Tayali 
as protagonists of printmaking in Zambia 
was significant. Cynthia Zukas. educated at 
the universities of Cape Town and London, 
practised linocutting, monoprinting and 
fabric printing. Etching became her main 
medium of expression in the early 7()s and to 
dale she remains the only Zambian artist 
practising it on a professional basis. Her 
works, such as Leaves and Walking Home, 
show empathy with nature and feature 
interpretations of the life of Zambian 
women. Cynthia Zukas made it possible for 
other artists to produce prints by importing 
an etching press and making it available to 

Henry Tayali studied art at universities in 
Uganda and Germany. On his return home 
he was appointed University Artist at the 
University of Zambia and until his death in 
1986, he played a leading role in the 
promotion of art in Zambia. Primarily a 
painter, Tayali made woodcuts and 
occasionally screenprints from the early 70s. 
His Mother and The Madam and the Rains 
are reminiscent of the German 
Expressionists in their deliberate use of 
dynamic lines. To aspiring artists, Henry 
Tayali provided the first role model of a 
successful black Zambian artist practising 

To date, the importance of the Lusaka Artists 
Group (LAG) in the development and 
popularisation of graphic art in Zambia has 
hardly been acknowledged. In spite of its 
short existence between 1976 and 1980. the 
LAG played a prominent role in the history 
of printmaking. In this respect the presence 
and influence of Bert Witkamp and his 
relationship with the LAG must be 
recognised. Bert Witkamp came to Zambia 
in 1975. He was a Dutch artist and art 
teacher with a thorough working knowledge 
of printmaking and good organisational 

skills. Inspired by the philosophies of the 
60s and outspoken in his anti-establishment 
approach, he became instrumental in 
organising aspiring Zambian artists. 
Together with David Chibwe, Fackson 
Kulya. Patrick Mweemba and others, he 
formed the Lusaka Artists Group. 

Witkamp believed that art was a social 
phenomenon and that communication was 
its main function. Therefore it should be 
made accessible to as many people as 
possible. Printmaking, with its essential 
feature of multiplication, was less exclusive 
than painting or sculpture and could be made 
affordable to one and all. The linocut was 
chosen as the most "democratic" of all 
techniques. Similar to woodcut, it was 
simpler in handling and had the added 
appeal of being more modem. The linocut 
was pert'ectly suited to bold and simplified 
rather than naturalistic effects which was an 
advantage to artists with no formal training. 
If the materials were not available, they 
could be improvised, particularly with 
regard to inks. 

A unifying factor amongst the members of 
the LAG was the common concern to live 
from the sale of their art. They did not 
indulge in 'art for art's sake": they had to 
make their living out of it. The figurative 
mode of expression they chose to 
coinmunicate with, found a market and 
became popular, allowing the artists, over 
time, to develop more personal styles. 

The works of Bert Witkamp, David Chibwe, 
Fackson Kulya and Patrick Mweemba on the 
retrospective exhibition, form a recognisable 
group in their use of mainly black and white 
linocut. Bert Witkamp's prints show a 
marked metamorphosis over the years, from 
elaborate, decorative representations such as 
Beauty is a Cure for Madness towards 
simplitlcd but meaningful images as in Tlic 
Shape of I lie House. For others the 
surtounding life is their main source of 
inspiration. David Chibwe is clearly 

(1) Bert Witkamp, The Shape of the 
House, 1986, 25 x 23cm, linocut 

(2) Patrick Mweemba, Three Blind 
Men crossing the River, 1 979, 1 5 x 
19cm, linocut 

(3) Lutanda Mwamba, Namfumu II, 
1990, 33 X 20.5cm, screenprint 

(4) Patrick Mweemba, Mockery, 1980, 
23 X 17.5cm, linocut 

attracted to an objective and detached 
documentary style, his prints showing a 
fascination for market and social scenes as 
in A Chcit in the Park and Craftsmen al 

Fackson Kulya and Patrick Mweemba give 
priority to subjective, intuitive, sometimes 
naive, but always very personal reactions to 
reality as in Kulya's The Hitl of Music. 
Disregarding conventional realism, they 
distort shapes and colours but never beyond 
recognition. Fackson Kulya also excels in 
humorous representations executed in a 
detailed way as exemplified by the print 
entitled Rushing out of the Bush with the 
Nose in the Hand hut that Big I Saw It. 
Patrick Mweemba. on the contrary, prefers 
cleanly defined solid forms, and uses line in 
a characteristic and masterly manner as in 
Three Blindmen Crossing the River and 

During the few years of its existence, the 
LAG met regularly at the Evelyn Hone 
College premises in Lusaka, made available 
to them through the Art Centre Foundation 
and over the years, the workshop at the 
Evelyn Hone College came to be known as 
the property of the Art Centre Foundation. 
The ideals of the LAG were pasted over. 

Cynthia Zukas and Henry Tayali served as a 
resource for the LAG through intermittent 
visits and interaction but their social 
position and formal art education created an 
invisible barrier that could not easily be 
crossed. There is very little evidence in the 
works of Chibwe. Kulya or Mweemba to 
demonstrate that they were influenced in 
any way by either Cynthia Zukas or Henry 
Tayali. Apart from occasional experiments, 
neither their techniques nor their personal 
styles were adopted by the members of the 

Printmaking in Zambia did not halt with the 
break-up of the Lusaka Artists Group. The 

members dispersed but continued to create 
their prints through the 80s. In the early 90s, 
a new trend in printmaking set in, 
characterised by the search for new means of 
expression and communication. Artists such 
as Andrew Makromalis, Lutanda Mwamba 
and Patrick Mumba started to experiment 
with the medium, stretching it beyond its 
confines and bringing it significantly closer 
to painting. 

Andrew Makromalis. an artist and art 
teacher, was trained in .South Africa and the 
United Kingdom. Known for his 
imaginative, free-form ceramics, he turned 
to monoprints in the early 90s. producing 
colourful, striking and unconventional 
results as seen in Fireball and Centurion. 

Lutanda Mwamba and Patrick Mumba 
received their first art classes at the Evelyn 
Hone College in Lusaka, later supplemented 
by training in Britain. Both practise painting 
and colour screen printing, working however 
towards different results. Lutanda Mwamba. 
introduced to printmaking by Patrick 
Mweemba, has become one of the most 
prolific graphic artists in Zambia. He has a 
preference for descriptive and decorative 
representations used to good effect in 
Namfunui II. Patrick Mumba, primarily a 
painter, explores reductionist and nearly 
abstract imagery in prints such as The Mask. 

Printmaking in Zambia cannot be seen as 
simply the result of economic constraints or 
the influence of an established body aimed 
at promoting art. It developed consciously 
as an art form due to the interaction of 
several factors and is still in its formative 

Note: Zambian Graphics is a travelling 
exhibition, on display at the Chonia Museum 
until 6 July 1996. Thereafter it will be on 
view both within Zambia and across the 
border in Botswana and in Germany. 

(1) Patrick Mumba, The Mask, 1994, 
49 X 34cm, screenprint 

(2) Fackson Kulya, Rushing out of the 
Bush with the Nose in the Hand but 
that Big I saw it, 1988, 23 x 12.5cm, 

(3) Andrew Makromalis, Fireball, 1 3 
1992, 44 X 37cm, monoprint 

The endurance of the human spirit is the central theme In 
work by one of Zimbabwe's prominent sculptors. 

Barbara Murray writes about 

Richard Jack: 
looking beyond 

Richard Jack, 

Arching, 1994, 


100 X 30 X 30cm, Jt^'' 


For an exhibition catalogue in 1994. Richard Jack wrote: 

"...Balanced fon7ts: chaotic fields. 
Sharing peace and the fruit. 
Meshing minds 
The artist paints and sculpts." 

Chaotic, meshing and balancing are three words that reveal a deep 
trend in Richard Jack's work. Born in Zimbabwe, Jack moved to 
Natal, South Africa, with his parents when he was quite young. His 
father, an architect and painter, encouraged him to take up art as a 
career. After studying graphic art at Durban Technikon. Jack worked 
in advertising for a few years but found the work superficial and 
meaningless in the conflict-ridden environment of apartheid. In 
order to express himself and engage more seriously with reality, he 
decided to work at art. Miro. the Surrealists and Picas,so impres.sed 
him with their free use of ideas and media and he soon took to 
sculpture combining a graphic African style with quirky mi.xed 
materials. His first works were five large extraordinary road signs 
using both rural and urban materials such as straw, sticks, poles, 
drums, and aluminium, duco paint, steel and manufactured bits, 
decorated with bright colours and geometric elements reflecting the 
influence of African design. 

Political issues were at the forefront of his mind; the conflicts within 
the society; the varying beliefs and attitudes which he describes as 
"schizophrenic": the search for a way. a sign along the road. His 
work reveals a continuing attempt to balance and mesh the chaos of 
his environment, the contrasting materials reflecting tensions in 
society but suggesting the possibility of harmony and strength in 

In 1981 on his return to Zimbabwe. Jack exhibited at Gallery Delta 
where his mixed media objects caused a sensation. Employing a 
myriad of materials and music, he created lively, composite creatures 
of modern African/technological descent. Whereas in Europe and 
elsewhere mixed media sculpture was often seen, at thai time in 
Zimbabwe it was a little known phenomenon. Jack's work was to 
have a telling influence on local artists who until then had been 
trapped in the mindset of stone sculpture. The result was the 
development of controversial, and still often disparaged, mixed 
media sculpture in Zinibabv\e. 

Looking back. Jack says: 

"Formal training might have made it easier hut I have experimented 
and found my own way. An artist is expressing the environment, the 
lime and the society he lives in. I like the mixture of media, then you 
are not controlled by your medium. You can put anything together 

Arl is a continually changing thing so my work has no consistent 
style. I don 't want to be categorised or restricted. If I get trapped in 
doing one type I break away and start something new" 

Jack sees the artist in Zimbabwe as isolated, "working on his own 
intuition. What happens in Europe has little influence here, which is 
not a bad thing. You don 't get confused by other people 's theories 
and work." But on the other hand, "outside influence can be 
good. Shona sculpture did at least establish Zimbabwe as a 
country with an interest in art. Artists who go out bring back 
new ideas. Tapfuma 's influence is good. He 's so outspoken, 
working with people. Some of the younger sculptors are now 
breaking away from the traditional. Dominic Benhura and 
Garrison are doing interesting stuff. Nicholas Mukomberanwa 
does some really good work. But there is a lot of repetition. I 
miss John Takawira. His work was so powerful, he was such 
an individual. The problem is the education here. There is 
no self-e.xamination. no in-depth study of art. how and why 
works have been created. Young artists here have to be taught 
to think for themselves." 

Having come to the conclusion that "politics is corrupt 
everywhere" , Jack now takes a humanitarian stance — "other 
elements of life become more important" . His recent works, 
encompassing sculpture and print media, deal with elemental 
forms. Detail is reduced to a minimum. His major concern is 
the figure, capturing in simple strong masses a physical 
rendering of the human essence, 

"The human fonn is endlessly fascinating. There is no perfect 


Jack creates areas of subtle modulation, using indications of 
bone and flesh, introducing the play of light over shapes and 
surfaces. Contrasts of rough and smooth echo the movement of 
the forms, working to reveal the artist's intentions. At times there 
is a lapse into whimsical stylisation of the human form 
introducing a certain coyness — the desire for harmony 
subverting the balance. 

Meditative and resilient. Jack survives and makes his living as an 
artist in the context of Zimbabwe, looking beyond the chaotic 

surface to the deeper levels of human existence. His work 
covers a wide range of subjects and is in many respects 
autobiographical. For example. Listening to the Wind and 
Consolation relate to his mother's old age and recent death. 
Between Two Halves concerns male domination, the sharing 
of food, Adam and Eve, and "what happens round a table". 

Other works, such as Back to Back which was made in 
response to Mangope's futile attempted coup in South 
Africa, speak to the political environment. Isolation, 
displacement and homelessness are recurring themes, seen in 
works such as Alone. Alexandria and Florence have a sense of 
archaeological history, the vase and female form reflecting classical, 
sensuous line, fragments of the past. Table and Still Life is another 
recurring motif centred on his statement that "fruit and objects, 
people and conversations, life is changed and revolves around these 
things." Jack has spoken of the "contemporary cries of primitive 
.spirits" — always there is concern for the human being caught up in 
the vicissitudes of life yet the works convey a sense of 
timelessness and inner stillness. 

Constantly juxtaposing disparate elements, materials, 
styles. Jack's work reflects the experience he lives. 
The qualities of different materials, now largely 
simplified to combinations of stone, wood and metal, 
are effectively used to underline his concepts. The soft 
warmth of wood may be contrasted with the hard 
coldness of stone, and their organic natures juxtaposed 


(above) Richard Jack, 
Florence, 1992, 
approx. 60 X 20 X 
20cm, serpentine 

(left) Richard Jacl<, 
Man and Woman (right 
and left views), 1996, 
56 X 34 X 19cm, 
serpentine and wood 


with the stiff formaHty of steel. His long experience with the 
materials results in a craftsman's approach, iinderstanding ;md 
employing the specificities of each. 

Among Jack's recent work is //; ilw Eye of the Atoll, an anti-nuclear 
statement. Two pieces of red mopane wood have been carved to 
reveal the grain, their smooth surface polished to a warm glow. 
They form a human chest split apart by the rising force from the 
atoll. In contrast the dominant central element, forming spine and 
head but also representing the nuclear cloud, is hacked from rough 
grey serpentine and attached with steel. The resultant sculpture has a 
commanding presence. Jack employs the opposed techniques of 
sculpture and print to offer disparate views of his subject. The 
simple but imposing forms of In the Eye of the Atoll are re- 
interpreted in a print — a mass of sculpture becomes a series of 
lines, adding an echo. This reduction to flat surface and scratchiness 
of line .serve to enhance the solidity and anthropomorphism of the 

The need to have his work shown elsewhere is strong: 

"/ want a reaction. I'm trying to create a feeling, to get through to 
people everywhere." 

Part of Jack's frustration is his exclusion from foreign mounted 
exhibitions of Zimbabwean or African art because he is white: 

"People think that 'African' work must be from blacks." 

He is an African and his work inevitably reflects African reality but 
he thinks of his art as being international — "my work is about 
people and society" — humanity regardless of country or race. 
Richard Jack's approach is an optimistic one, based on a deeply held 
belief in the potential for good in the human spirit, in the possibility 
of bringing together different philosophies, customs, attitudes, in 
meshing and balancing seemingly chaotic elements to create 
harmonious combinations. 


Richard Jack, In the Eye of the Atoll, 
1996, 82 X 55 X 23cm, steel, 
serpentine and wood 

One of art's functions is to blow open windows in the mind. Margaret 
Garlake sends news of the continuing discovery of new possibilities. 

Letter from London 



Anya Gallaccio, 
Preserve Red Beauty', 1996. 
(Photo courtesy the artist 
& The Henry Moore Institute) 

A few days ago I received an envelope 
postmarked Las Vegas, a city wliere I Icnow 
no-one. It contained a balloon, bearing the 
words "If I fish a fish / You cook it / Whose 
fish is it?" I take this to be an art-work, 
albeit a modest one (as well as a statement 
of anxiety about gender relations). A 
compensation for mailing-list junk is that 
occasionally something serendipitous 
happens, like a balloon. 

The point is that in London people receive a 
great deal of information about exhibitions, 
most of which it is impossible to visit, while 
art flourishes in many other centres and. 
indeed, in places which are not centres at all. 
'London', then, is not so much a place of 
commercial opportunity and open doors 
(though it may be that as well) as a wider 
locus for invention, the redrawing of 
boundaries and a constant reinvestigation of 
art"s roles and possibilities. And this 
creativity may not take place in the city at 
all: it may simply act on the city. 

The Bowes Museum, at Barnard's Castle in 
far-away Co. Durham was the setting for an 
imaginative show which foregrounded the 
always sensitive issues of curatorial licence 
and artistic autonomy. The Bowes is not like 
other museums. The building is a 17th 
century French chateau built in the 1870s in 
northern England to house the private 
collection of John and Josephine Bowes. 
Between 1861 and 1875 they bought over 
15.000 items which range from a crust of 
bread said to date from the Paris Commune 

to some rather nice Meissen porcelain, plus 
furniture, paintings (often dubious) and 
entire 'period' rooms. The Bowes' frenetic 
acquisition may have had to do with a desire 
for social legitimation, since he was an 
illegitimate member of an aristocratic family 
grown exceedingly rich on coal, while she 
was a French actress. Relatively little has 
been added to the collections since their 
deaths, so the Museum remains largely a 
time-capsule, a monument to prevalent but 
uncertain taste and a singular lack of 

Into it. two curators. Penelope Curtis and 
Veit Gomer inserted contemporary works by 
a group of disparate British and German 
artists. In almost every case, the pieces were 
selected extremely carefully from existing 
work, for the interactions that they might 
stimulate with specific locations in the vast 
expanse of the Bowes. From the random 
blobs of gold-painted plaster dotted around 
the walls and floor of a rococco room, to the 
little wax models called English Clergy- 
posed in a late Gothic interior, the pieces 
worked as commentaries, poignant, witty or 
ironic, on the existing collection. It's fairly 
predictable that Damien Hirst's pickled 
sheep should nudge up to a two-headed calf; 
less so that both should occupy a room 
devoted to local industries; this particular 
sheep has not been much discussed as 
representative of the late Victorian rural 
economy. Upstairs, in a room containing 
inter alia a sedan chair and some indelicate 
French 1 8th century paintings, were 
Catherine Yass" back-lit colour photographs 

of the curators, contemporary versions of 
John and Josephine, responsible for 're- 
writing' the 'text' of the collection. As so 
often, the pieces that worked best were the 
most discreet. Pressed between two sheets 
of glass forming a false interior window. 
Anya Gallaccio (she who a few months ago 
spectacularly installed a ton of ice in a 
disused pumping station and waited for it to 
melt) arranged brilliant red flowers, to decay 
during the course of the exhibition; in a 
space entirely filled with Josephine's own 
mediocre paintings. Gavin Turk placed a 
paint roller and tray, faced by its own cast in 

Exhibitions which are interventions into 
locations with strong, existing identities are 
not unusual. It is, however, extremely rare 
to find curatorial authority exercised with 
such acutely intelligent imagination and 
insight. Because of this, the artists agreed to 
allow their works to be sited in situations 
which they had not envisaged, to convey 
messages not of their makers' devising. 

An organisation called Space Explorations 
took a different approach, on a smaller scale. 
when they organised an exhibition in a 
London tower block awaiting demolition. 
Derelict factories, warehouses and office 
blocks are regularly snapped up for short- 
term use by artists as an alternative to scarce 
and inaccessible commercial gallery spaces. 
'High-Rise" used six floors and the basement 
of a block next to the new British Library: 
one artist to a floor, working to a clear 
directive, each one to produce one piece I / 


Carl Andre, S/x /Wefa/ Fugue (for Mendeleev), 1995, 1 x 1080 x 1080cm, 
aluminium, steel, copper, zinc, tin, lead 

intimately linked to the space. The roof, 
with spectactular views of the leafy, 
rainwashed city and Library, held a line of 
logstacks and a tape of bird calls, wonder- 
fully appropriate to its windswept situation. 
One floor down, the stripped-out interior 
space of the concrete skeleton was closed off 
by a transparent yellow screen which 
transformed it utterly, with minimal means. 
And so on. This was another kind of 
curatorial intelligence at work, which 
elicited punchy, impermanent pieces which 
will survive only in a photographic record. 

London is top-heavy with galleries but, 
though it is still difficult to find a space to 
show in, it is even harder to make it into the 
pages of the art magazines in the form of a 
review. Selling is another matter and no 
easier, but not invariably related to reviews. 
As John and Josephine demonstrated, items 
of uncertain taste may be good commercial 
propositions. Very few of the thousands 
who exhibit in some manner every year will 
earn their livings froin art; only a miniscule 
number will become household names, like 
Hirst. Many artists and galleries are well- 
respected in the trade but remain totally 
unknown to a wider public. 

In an effort to compel attention, private-view 
cards are reaching heights of invention not 
seen since the 1960s and emerging as a new 
(multiple) art-form. One of the London art 
colleges has printed its degree show 
invitations on cotton handkerchiefs, with one 
comer tied, naturally, into a large knot. 
"Admission by luiJidkeivhief." A bookshop- 
gallery called workfortheeyetodo, in 
Spitalfields, an area best known for Indian 
restaurants, has sent out postcards bearing 
the text "No free reading" and captioned "A 
sign in the newsagent at Dul>li)i Bus Station, 
1996". This is known as a 'teaser': the 
appeal to curiosity is too strong to be 

A young artist called Darren Lago gave his 
recent show the title 'How long is a piece of 
string / 7, as long as the Parthenon'. The 
invitation carried a plan of the Parthenon 
and a poem by Belloc: "Henry King /(who 
chewed bits of String / and was cut off early 
in Dreadful Agonies)" . The show itself, held 
in a former factory/workshop, consisted of a 
piece of string which stretched the length of 
an otherwise empty space. (We can lake it 
on faith that it was half as long etc ... ) It 
takes a certain chut/pah to do this; unlike the 
Wretched Child of Belloc's poem, Lago may 
well survive — artisticall\ spcakmg. 


Much less witty was a bizarre lilllc c\cin in 
a gloomy basement gallery where the rotting 
left-overs of a dinner served to a clutch of 
artists, dealers, editors and so on, remained 
as the focus of an 'exhibition'. (Given the 
near-arctic state of the eariy summer, there 
was no hygiene problem. I I urulcr>.l,iiul thai 

(top) Reno Patarica, Vasen, 1994 (Photo courtesy the artist) 

(above) Daphne Wright, Still Life - The Greenhouse, 1995 
(Photo courtesy the artist) 

the menu involved pigeon and rose petals 
and that conversation was sticky. The card, 
headed "Dinner", showed the seating plan, 
and the point of the event seems to have 
been a somewhat distasteful reassertion of 
the authority of the art world institutions — 
galleries, magazines and personalities. 

On the other hand, artists are wonderfully 
inventive in circumventing institutional 
systems and the barriers raised by too little 
money and too much competition. For those 
who work with text — and few visual 
traditions have a firmer historical pedigree 
— the Internet is an open door Maggie 
Ellenby, who has hitherto displayed art- 
related aphorisms in a rented window in 
Rosebery Avenue, near Sadler's Wells 
Theatre, has taken possession of a new web 
site at 
95. It takes a lot of persistence, ingenuity 
and patience, let alone talent, to get a show 
in 'London"; serious young artists write, 
teach, organise exhibitions for other people, 
as activities interchangeable with making 

However, there remain 'great names'. 
Cezanne, alas, is gone: in Oxford we had a 
much reduced version of Carl Andre's recent 
retrospective from Germany. Unfortunately 
his work, which is destined, if anything is. 
for a white cube, and a very large one at that, 
sat uneasily in the Museum of Modem Art, 
which has rough walls, a highly grained 
parquet floor and some very low ceilings. 
Nothing, though, could do much to diminish 
the impact of the huge floor piece. 5a Mela! 
Fugue (for Mendeleev) 1995. Grounded in 
the Periodic Table, it consists of 30cm 
squares of copper, steel, tin. aluminium, zinc 
and lead, arranged in a chequer pattern to 
display every possible combination of the 
metals. Rigorously formulated, conceptually 
elegant and — as a by-product — visually 
beguiling. Si.x Metal Fugue is worth a long 
journey, let alone a detour. 

There can be no doubt that, however ill- 
served by the fabric of Oxford's MoMA. 
Andre belongs to the centre: to see only a 
fraction of his work is to realise that he has 
been of immense importance during the last 
20 years in extending notions both of the 
physical nature of sculpture and its intellec- 
tual affinities. MoMA is not, of course, a 
commercial gallery: a handful of these in 
London's West End (Anthony d'Offay. 
Waddington's. Annely Juda) share its 
international stature and its star artists. For 
most of the rest, it's a matter of stretching 
the string as far as it will reach and being 
realistic about the fact that art's a hand-to- 
mouth process — rather more literally so 
than we may previously have supposed. 


Reviews of recent work 

Tomy Ndebele, Mqamulazwe Design 

Veryan Edwards, Ochre Medley 


Isu Lobuciko and Botswana 
Thoughts, National Gallery in 
Bulawayo, May/June 1996 

Point of intersection: Veryan Edwards was 
bom in Hong Kong. Tomy Ndebele in 
Tsholotsho and Voti Thebe in Bulawayo. 
The three work within the visual arts as 
workshop facilitator, teacher and 
administrator respectively. They are all 
practising "mid-career" artists, Edwards 
based in Gaberone, Thebe and Ndebele in 

By chance, they find themselves exhibiting 
concurrently at the National Gallery in 
Bulawayo. Thebe and Ndebele are showing 
jointly in the upstairs Marshall Baron 
Gallery and Edwards downstairs in the 
Anglo-American Gallery. This is not the 
first occasion that the three have met. 
Edwards is the founding chairperson of 
Botswana's Thapong Workshop, attended by 
Tomy Ndebele in 1994. Edwards was at 
Zimbabwe's Pachipamwe Workshop at 
Gyrene in I9H9, while Thebe has been to 
Pachipamwe on four occasions and Ndebele 
on one. It is through the workshop network 
that many artists in the region have got to 
know each other and have formed important 

Veryan Edwards is a colourisl, works non- 
figuratively and has a preference for large 

formats. The gallery glows with her current 
exhibition, washes and stains in vibrant 
yellows, reds and blues creating an 
environment, an aura all of its own. The big 
canvases permit Edwards to assimilate the 
imagery and sensibilities of the vast 
Botswana panorama as well as seeking 
meaning beyond the confines of the physical 
and visible. She notes in her artist's 
statement that: 

"Concerns in ahslraction tend to be 
metaphysical: the nature of reality, the 
relationship of person to world, person to 
person, the nature of person. This creates a 
mood that relates in part to the original 
source-experience on which the paintings 
are based and to my state of mind/being 
during the process of painting. The process 
of painting takes over from the original 
impetus, with the formal concerns 
necessitating relations of colour and form ... 
As artists we try to bridge the gap between 
the visible and the invisible ... We live a 
brief candlelight existence amongst 
mysteries we struggle to comprehend: we 
become. Stand aside and let the paint 
speak: marry inlcllcci and intuition." 

The importance of such articulations within 
the catalogue notes cannot be understated as 
they help us to read the work and to gain 
insights as to the artist's inlcniion. 

Edwards' paintings are generous in terms of 
their dimensions, colour and feel. The 
viewer is left with the impression that this is 
an artist who is not only in possession of a 
unique vision but who has also discovered 
the appropriate medium and technique with 
which to express it. Botswana Thoughts is a 
cohesive body of work which 
uncompromisingly focuses its energy on the 
philosophical and formal issues which 
motivate the artist. The textured Experience 
ofOz. the subtle Ochre Medley, the bold A- 
Maze and the innovative World View and 
Namib Vista are all gems. 

The talking point of the Voti Thebe/Tomy 
Ndebele show is undoubtedly Thebe's 
installation Death is Life, Life is Death. The 
piece is situated in an enclosed space. It 
refiects upon the fact that death is the final 
and inescapable act of life itself. Mankind's 
vanity and the class differences which Imger 
even as we troop off to meet our maker are 
symbolised by three small coffins in the 
form of a Mercedes Benz, a Volkswagen and 
a plain cardboard box. The coffins are 
accompanied by an arrangement of bones 
placed next to a scribbled poem by 
Qaphelisasa Nhlanzi ("What are bones for? 
To keep your flesh erect, otherwise you 'II be 
a lump"), a blanket, a double wooden bowl 
containing macimhi and mai/e meal, drums, 
broken pots, murals and more poems by 

A not-to-be-missed retrospective exhibition 
of work by llo the Pirate (Battigelli). 

master of black and white, photographer 
extraordinary, opens at Gallery Delta in July 
encompassing photographs from 60 years 
living and working in Europe, Saudi Arabia, 
America and Africa. 


Voti Thebe, Death is Life, Life is Death 

Thebe himself. The floor is covered in plain 

The enclosed space is provocative and 
aesthetically bold, but the viewers are left to 
make up their own minds as to the intent and 
purpose. This is fair enough, but some 
observers felt that the piece presented the 
germ of an idea without being sufficiently 

The promise of the installation, however, 
serves to reveal shortcomings in the rest of 
the Isu Lobuciko exhibition. Whereas the 
installation is adventurous and challenging, 
the opposite applies to the legion of 
25 X 40 cm framed paintings arranged in 
monotonously neat rows. Where the 
installation alludes to art as an intellectual 
process, the rest of the show is let down by 
being predictable and staid. The small size 
of the work mitigates against its potential to 
explore the concepts being expressed or to 
allow the materials being used to assert 
themselves in formal terms. It is puzzling 
that the artists have chosen to scale down so 
much when both have worked much larger 
in the past. 

Where Botswana Thoughts is unified in 
vision and technique, Isu Lobuciko lacks 
coherence in that the styles of each artist 
switch, change and jump around to the 

extent that it is often difficult to discern a 
common drift in the work. Within the 57 
paintings on view up to ten distinct styles are 
detectable (varying from the Mzilikazi 
school style to pointillism and non- 
figuration), diluting focus and giving the 
impression of a large group show rather than 
a two-person exhibition. 

Thebe's new series of white paintings are his 
best work {Amazolo Ezolo. The Bird and The 
Flying Ants) and Ndebele's ability as a 
draughtsman asserts itself in You Are All 
Welcome and Qaphela. Ndebele's work with 
the most potential, however, is his oil on 
canvas series comprising Mqamulazwe 
Design, Togetherness and Images of Life and 
Death (that theme again!), but all scream out 
for more space. 

The convergence of the two exhibitions 
gives the opportunity to compare the work 
of three established southern African artists 
side-by-side. The contrasts are stimulating 
and clarifying. Above all, they point to the 
fact that we need to see more good 
exhibitions from outside our borders in order 
to pinpoint our own strengths and 
weaknesses and to occasionally knock us 
from our complacent plinths. Stephen 

d forthcoming 
events and 

In August Gallery Delta will feature works 
by Zimbabwe's prominent artists including 
Jogee, Lieros, Back, Meque, Bickle, 
Dixon and others. 

Installation is the main feature of exhibitions 
in July at the National Gallery in Bulawayo. 
They will show three installations, one each 
by Gail Strever-Morkel from South 
Africa, Mark l-laddon from Britain and 
Nikunja from Switzeriand. In August, 
Bulawayo will host Furniture and 
Furnishings featuring one-off art items, as 
well as a show of German graphics and 
paintings. September sees an Art and 
Craft Fair, work by George Nene and the 
travelling Annual Schools' Exhibition. 

A one-person show by painter IVIishek 
Gudo and the Longmans' Women 
Visual Artists' Exhibition open towards 
the end of July at the National Gallery in 
Harare. In August, work by students from 
the Harare Polytechnic will be exhibited 
as well as paintings and graphics by 
Yugoslav artist, Branko Miljus. Two one- 
person shows will open in September. 
Kaufman Ndlovu and Fani Kofi, as well 
as the Bulawayo Furniture and 
Furnishings Exhibition. 

A one-person show of recent work by Paul 
Wade will open in late September at 
Sandro's new gallery in Belgravia. 

For those travelling to or living in Britain, 
75 paintings by Robert Paul will be 
exhibited in a one-man show at the Victoria 
Gallery in Bath opening on 28 September. 
This is to be the first exhibition of Paul's 
work in the country of his birth and 
hopefully, within the declared post-colonial 
parameters, he will receive the recognition 
he deserves. A book on Robert Paul's life 
and work, including approximately 24 full 
colour reproductions, will be published to 
accompany the exhibition. 

Commonwealth Art and Craft Awards 

Closing date I September 1996 
Contact the Editor, Gallery, for details. 


bardwell printers 



^ The art rai^ne from Gallery t)eltfi ''^f 





Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publistier and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Gallery magazine: 

Anjslo American Corporation Services Limited 


The Rio Tinio Foundation 



Joerg Sorgenicht 
Friedbert Lutz 

Crystal Candy 


Tanganda Tea Company Limited 


September 1996 

Stephen Williams: a broad, deep and lasting impact 
hy Derek Huggins. Voti Thebe, Andrew Whaley, 
Rashid Jogee. Jeremy Brickhill, Styx Mhlanga, 
Steve Harpt and others 

Mountains of the Moon: Tulipamwe 1996 
by Neo Matome 

Digging deep 

by Brian Bradshaw 

Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Front cover; 

Back cover: 


Assemblage by Eric Liot (France), Tulipamwe 
Workshop, Namibia, 1996 (photo: Neo Matome) 
Sculpture by Eric Pongerard (Reunion), Tulipamwe 
Workshop, Namibia, 1996 (photo: Neo Matome) 
Stephen Williams, Star II, 1985, 95 x 1 15 x .5cm, 
welded metal and paint 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination: HP? Studios. Printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. 
Paper: Express from Graphtec Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, c/o Gallery Delta, 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue, P.O. Box UA 373 Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (263-4)792135 
Fax: c/o (263-4) 753186. 

a broad, deep and lasting impact 

In the Bulawayo Siinddy News of 18 June 1995. a jdunialist wrote: 
"'After the initial excitement surrounding the opening of the New 
Gallery in Bulawayo at Douslin House, one had the feeling that the 
whole place was slowly falling asleep ... lethargy reigns ... Against 
this background has been the recent appointment of Stephen 
Williams as Acting Director of the Gallery." By 29 October 1995. 
the same journalist was able to report; ""The art gallery is now a very 
busy place ... monthly attendance figures have jumped from just over 
1000 to 7000."" 

This was a remarkable achievement anywhere but particularly in a 
small, relatively conservative city. The National Gallery in 
Bulawayo (NGB) had. in four months, become a centre of cultural 
activity. Brightly coloured flags were designed and hung from the 
balcony proclaiming to passersby the presence of the National 
Gallery. Innovative exhibitions were initiated including a display of 
cartoons and Flight Lieutenant Barnabus Sibanda's Ziincopter and 
Zim Mirage which were set up in the gallery courtyard. Exchange 
workshops with neighbouring countries and one person shows by 
young Bulaw ayo artists were held. Large detachments of school 
children, art teachers and teacher trainees regularly visited the 
changing exhibitions. Slide talks and lectures occurred. Videos 
could be seen. Visiting artists from outside the country were invited 
to put up installations. Jazz bands, classical ensembles and rock 
groups preformed in the courtyard. Poetry readings were given and 
a drama consultancy began to operate from one of the studios. The 
library was revamped and promoted to the public, art students and art 
teachers at nearby schools and educational institutions. Weekly 
advertisements began to appear in the Bulawayo media informing 
the public about exhibitions, events, new books, activities. The NGB 
Newsletter was redesigned and the content improved to make it 
interesting and provoking reading. An enthusiastic group of 
volunteers came in to do promotional work such as fundraising 
leaving the staff to carry out their duties. Correspondence was 
initiated with regional and overseas art institutions. Support was 
obtained from embassies, leaders in business and political circles. 
The shop was reorganised and began to include Zimbabwean 
literature. All of these activities were carried out with a streamlined 
and now highly motivated team of staff. Glitches in administration 
and finance were sorted out. Coirtputers were obtained with funds 
raised by the Friends of the Galleiy. and put to good use. Catalogues 
for exhibitions took on a professional appearance. Artists from 
Bambazonke Harare were beginning to talk of going down to 
Bulawayo to exhibit. There was an influx of people involved in all 
branches of the arts. The NGB had become a place of geniality, 
interest, excitement and action; a focus for culture in both Zimbabwe 
and the region. 

A notice in the NGB Newsletter of March 1996 announced that "Mr 
2 Stephen Williams has been appointed Regional Director with effect 
from I February 1996. Mr Williams has been acting in the position 

since May 1995." The arts community of Zimbabwe breathed a sigh 
of relief. At Stephen had come home, had found his place, won 
his official appointment and could really begin to use his many 
abilities. It had been a long journey, one which has now been robbed 
of its fulfilment. 

Visiting Stephen's home one is made aware of his involvement with 
art. In the flat Matabeleland garden stand sculptures, his own and 
others, collected over time. In the house, the walls are covered with 
paintings, including the last large canvas he completed. Dreams of 
Mlialalsue. divided vertically into dark and dull textured gold, the 
junction crossed with thorns, and incorporating seed pods and metal 
fragments. In the garage, his "studio", slashes of paint, reds, browns, 
orange, yellow, gold, straight on one side, random on the other, line 
upon line, month upon month of residue, cover a twenty foot long 
wooden "easel" on one wall. On the floor more colour, on the end 
wall a ground and gleaming sculpture made from a flattened petrol 
drum top; the motorbike. In the shed at the back, canvases stacked 
against the wall and in the drawers of a paper chest, more evidence 

(right) Stephen Williams, 1990 
(Photo courtesy the Botswana 
National Museum and Art Gallery) 

(below) Stephen Williams, Dreams 
of Mhalatswe, ^994-96, 183 x118cm, 
acrylic on canvas with mixed media 

(opposite) Stephen Williams, 
(title unknown), 1978, etching 


Stephen Williams, Regional 

Director of the National 

Gallery in Bulawayo, artist, 

teacher, writer, promoter, 

catalyst, administrator 

and friend, has died, 

aged 47, as the result 

of injuries sustained 

in a motorcycle 

accident. Our 

loss is 


Ga/Zery will, in 

a future issue, 

^-«-. publish an 

appreciation of 


contribution to 


art through his 

painting and 

sculpture. This 

article brings 

together the 

memories of a 

few of Stephen's 

friends and col- 

M ,->jKr leagues in tribute 

of Stephen's commitment. The earliest works are pencil, conte or 
charcoal sketches of people and environments, student studies of 
nudes, watercolour landscapes. In another drawer, silkscreen prints 
from the time of the liberation struggle. Two simple self portraits. 
one alone, one with his children. The rest of the drawers spill over 
with landscapes, in watercolour. oil and acrylic — great swathes of 
sky, open stretches of dry grass veld, earth and the distant horizon; in 
many, the identifying gestural strokes, free, generous and alive with 

Stephen was an artist in love with the African landscape. He grew 
up in the flat open places of Matabeleland where earth is barely 
divided from the wide skies by a faint and distant smudge, 
sometimes a barely discernible difference of colour; the ground 
marked by scratchy brush and scrub bush, dry branches, thorns, seed 
pods, bones, dirt paths and roads, and scattered scraps of metal, the 
leavings of human, animal and plant existence. The colours of the 
hot African bush filled his eyes and heart. 

Stephen had come to this country in 1956 at the age of eight. He 
emigrated with his parents from Barry. South Wales, to Bulawayo. 
Southern Rhodesia, where his father had been a flight instructor with 
the RAF during World War 2. He completed his schooling in 
Bulawayo and began studies for CIS. But this early choice of career 
was disrupted by political developments in the country. In 1969. 
rather than serve call-up in the Rhodesian army, fighting for a 
government whose policies he detested. Stephen left for Britain. He 
got factory work, travelled to the USA, and completed two terms 
study at the West of England Academy of Art in Bristol. Returning 
to Bulawayo in 1971. he held his first one person exhibition at 
Naake's Gallery and became a close friend of Marshall Baron, 
abstract expressionist, musician, lawyer and political activist. It was 
a relationship which had a lasting influence on his life. In 1972 he 
travelled to Malawi and Mozambique, completed his CIS and went 
to Botswana to work for a firm of chartered accountants. While 
developing his management, administrative and financial abilities, he 

continued to paint, having a solo exhibition at the National Gallery 
of Botswana in 1973. 

The pull of the wild places of Botswana and his love of landscape 
led to a year spent collecting insects, working briefly for tsetse 
control and painting watercolour landscapes in the Okavango. 
During this time he realised that if art was to be the passion in his 
life he should do a degree in fine art and he enrolled at Natal 
University. Then, not having completed his degree, he spent a year 
working as a station foreman in Serule. Botswana, painted his 
"Tyrannicide series" and broke his arm in a motorcycle accident. In 
1978, he went to Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town to complete 
his degree, also travelling to the Transkei and Lesotho. 

Stephen's restless search and energy during these years formed a 
basis for his future. With his love of discussion and his gentle, easy- 
going nature, he made friends everywhere he went, absorbing ideas 
and influences from the many cultures he came across, reducing 
barriers and tensions, creating understanding. His art became 
strongly political. In the conservative context of Bulawayo in the 
late 70s, at the height of the bloody and vicious racial war, art was 
one way in which disagreement with government policy could be 
expressed. A series of large square canvases appeared, one a vibrant 
red square cut with a giant X within a solid black border expressing 
much of Stephen's abhorrence of the divisive and destructive war. 
Another work, an etching from 1978, at the time of the election of 
the interim government, another ploy by the whites to retain power 
through a puppet coalition government, reveals his attitude. 

On independence in 1980, Stephen returned to Zimbabwe and 
immediately set about contributing actively to the community both in 
political and cultural ways. He took up a post as lecturer in painting, 
drawing, graphics and history of art at the Bulawayo Technical 
College, was one of the judges for the 1 3th Annual Schools' 
Exhibition, executed a mural for the Ministry of Manpower and 
continued his own painting. In 1981. he exhibited work in Maputo 




(top) Stephen Williams, The Veteran Nationalists, 
1983, sllkscreen print 

(middle) Stephen Williams, Lenin and Rebecca, 
1982, silkscreen print 

A (below) Stephen Williams, Bourgeois and 
Proletarians, 1983, silkscreen print 

and London, and moved to the United College of Education where 
he taught art and sociology. This led to a decision to study for a BSc 
(Special Honours) in sociology at the University of Zimbabwe in 
1982. doing his dissertation on The Question of Unity in 
Zimbabwean Politics. After the initial relief at the end of the war 
and independence, the horror of the genocide in Matabeleland, 
Stephen's home area, and disillusion with the new power elite 
entered his work. His arti.stic ability was used to practical ends, as a 
way to influence and contribute to change in society. Composition, 
colour and content combined to express his deeply held convictions 
that unity, compromise and co-existence are essential for life. Some 
idea of Stephen's commitment to politics and art during this time is 
described in the following extract from a tribute to Stephen written 
by Jeremy Brickhill: 

"I first met Stephen Williams in 1981 when 1 was still serving in the 
Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA). He approached 
me through a mutual friend and invited me to meet him at the old 
rambling house he rented in Hillside Road in Bulawayo. Stephen 
had obviously read and thought a lot about politics and could talk at 
length about political theory, but at our first meeting he came straight 
to the point. T know you've been fighting for ZAPU.' he told me. 
"and I support ZAPU too. I haven't been involved in the liberation 
struggle before but if there is anything I can do now. just ask." 
•Why ZAPU?" I asked. 

'Because ZAPU's non-racial progressive nationalism is what I 
believe we need in Zimbabwe, and well. I'm a Bulawayo boy!' he 
answered smiling that serene smile of his. So started 15 years of 
friendship and shared comradeship. 

When Dumiso Dabengwa. Lookout Masuku and other ZPRA 
commanders were detained along with hundreds of other party 
activists I followed up Stephen's offer of help to ZAPU. His 
response was characteristically unhesitating and reliable. Whether 
we needed help with transport, or a bed for the night for someone in 
trouble, or help with food or money. Stephen was there. He soon 
became and remained a reliable rear base. In a time when fair 
weather comrades and friends were running for cover. Stephen's 
quiet courage and commitment did not go unnoticed. Unassuming, 
generous and sensitive, he quickly became a trusted comrade and 
friend among people who took great care where to place their trust 
and friendship. 

During this same period I and others were also involved in 
establishing co-operatives among demobilised ex-combatants. Our 
political ambitions to keep the socialist flag flying were however 
undermined by our almost complete lack of business skills. My own 
co-operative, the Memorial Co-operative Society (MCS) had 
established a printing business, and like many other co-operatives we 
were floundering. We approached Stephen for help and he quickly 
agreed, moved to Harare and joined us as Production Manager. 
Stephen's methodical approach was just what we needed to 
counteract our guerilla-inspired Utopian socialism. Over the year he 
worked with us Stephen .systematically reorganised the production 
process, leaving behind the solid foundation that has kept our co- 
operative in business until now. 

As you can imagine, political discussions rather that profits kept us 
going and Stephen loved the comradeship and never-ending debate. 
He painted and designed too, and Joined our other artists in 
producing a steady stream of agit-prop materials. Stephen's painting 
during this period reflected his growing participation in and 
knowledge of the nationalist movement. He contributed to the flow 
of ideas through discussit)ns and painting, and very importantly for 
us, through commitment. He was not just interpreting events as an 
artist, he was prepared to be inxolved. I well remember Stephen 
somewhat tongue-in-cheek, rephrasing Karl Marx in one of our 
weekly political discussion meetings: 'Artists have always 
interpreted the world, the point however is to change it"! 

His participation in the co-operative movement gave him access in 
conditions of trust and comradeship to the ex-combatant community 
and enabled Stephen to introduce art to many people who had 
previously believed art plays no part in politics or indeed in everyday 
life. Stephen encouraged us all to see art not only as a reflection of 
the world, but also as a means of influencing ideas and changing 
how people saw the world. And so in those days it was not unusual 
to see former guerillas at exhibitions in the company of Stephen, 
arguing and discussing a painting or a sculpture. 

In return, these former guerillas gave Stephen their dreams, 
memories and experiences from which he was able to fashion new 
images and interpretations. His silkscreen series Veteron 
Nalioiwlisis undoubtedly owes something to one of those nights 
when we reminisced around the fire, whilst Lenin and Rebecca and 
Bourgeois and Proletarians surely emerged from the bubbling pot of 
our feverish Marxism and attempts to implement socialist policies in 
the co-operative movement. 

It was during this crazy tumultuous time that Stephen and I spent a 
great deal of time together Often Stephen would paint while I wrote 
and talked with him. Occasionally we had to do something fairly 
hair-raising and 1 quickly learned that Stephen was the sort of person 
you could trust in a tight spot; always reliable and always calm. 

We often went with comrades to listen to music, watch a play or 
football. Stephen was popular with everyone and was welcome 
wherever he went. His special friends though were two young 
artists, Thabisa Masuku and Doolan Dube, both sadly now dead. 
Stephen was their mentor, and as so many other artist know, Stephen 
was a man you could always talk to about your struggles with your 
work. So Stephen became part of our family, a family not unlike the 
family of artists. (Like artists we also knew what it was like to be 
swept down a raging stream, needing a trusted hand to hold onto.) 
And now our trusted rear base, our comrade and companion is gone. 
We are left with memories and paintings which are not enough, but 
for which we are very thankful." 

In 1984, Stephen was appointed manager of Mzilikazi Art and Craft 
Centre in Bulawayo which gave him further opportunity to unite his 
passionate commitment to art and socialist politics. Under Stephen's 
able direction Mzilikazi became an important fine art training facility 
for the region, educating some of Zimbabwe's well-known artists. 
Always looking to reach beyond limitations, Stephen instigated 
evening classes to provide opportunities for those in full-time 
employment and at one time approximately 200 children from 
schools that did not offer art as part of their curricula received 
instruction in drawing and painting at Mzilikazi. His time in the co- 
operative movement and at the university studying sociology had 
developed and broadened his vision and he began to write papers and 
articles which should become the underlying policy documents of art 
and culture in Zimbabwe. In an article for Insight. Stephen wrote: 

"The Mzilikazi Centre [has] played an important role in engendering 
alternative forms of cultural expression, and, in a small way, helped 
to bring about change ... From its inception it has had the primary 
objective of offering skills training to school-leavers thereby 
equipping them with the means to support themselves once they have 
completed their courses. Additionally it offers employment to the 
disadvantaged members of society in the pottery production unit. 
This aspect of service to the community has combined with the 
stated cultural objectives to provide a unique setting for artistic 
production with a clear social perspective, rather than the pursuit of 
art for its own sake. 

Students were encouraged to paint what was happening around them, 
to comment on and record the reality of their daily lives ... it [had] 
the effect — as art is always capable of doing — of raising the 
consciousness of both the artist and the onlooker by stressing 
particular views of society. 

... the Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre was envisaged as a community 
centre, intended to encourage the growth and development of 
cultural activities and the discovery and promotion of artistic talent 
amongst the working-class peoples of Bulawayo's western areas. 
This ideal has been consistently adhered to, even under the most 
difficult conditions and it is hoped that in the future the Centre will 
be able to increase this contribution to the community." 

Stephen managed Mzilikazi from 1984 to 1989, teaching and 
encouraging the artists, and also making sure that their work got 
recognition beyond Bulawayo by bringing it to Harare for exhibition. 
During this fime he was appointed to the Bulawayo Arts Council and 
the Cominittee of the Bulawayo Art Gallery. He was a judge for the 
1984 Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition, attended the Issues for the Next 
Generation conference in Toronto, visited Paul Goodwin in Milan, 
organised a public sculpture exhibition in Bulawayo which caused 
more stir than anyone would have thought possible, and had 
exhibitions of his own work, painting, sculpture and ceramics, which 
continued to reflect his experiences and his love of the open 
landscapes of Africa. 1986 saw his work selected for an award of 
merit in the Zimbabwe Annual, included in the Zimbabwean 
exhibition to the USSR, GDR and Bulgaria and exhibited in a two- 
person show at Gallery Delta. Derek Huggins writes: 

"Stephen was a man of many roles all rolled into one. We at Gallery 
Delta first met him in the early 80s and watched his career with 
interest. Most of his paimings related to the landscape which he 
loved. 1 recall a series of paintings of Matabeleland which tended to 
abstraction — executed about the mid 80s — which glowed in their 
intensity of light and colour. Later he painted abstract hard-edged 
paintings with prominent zig-zag lightning-like markings. There 
was his love of Botswana and the San people whom he visited. This 
took him back to abstracting from the landscape and his exhibition 
entitled The Botswana Landscape and Other Non-Figurative 
Paintings at Gallery Delta in 1992. It was a good show in which big. 
broad, expansive and abstracted landscapes with markings like bones 
in the sand were prominent. Later in 1994, there was the show 
entitled Time and Space in which his work explored surface and 
texture, predominantly in gold and silver paint, and the effect of the 
light playing over their surfaces. This he was developing in work 
which has yet to be shown. 


^ ^ 
















- • * 

• • * 


^ • 









' T 


/ / 




Stephen Williams, Umbane Linyoka, 
1986, 92 X 92cm, oil on canvas 

Stephen Williams, (title unknown), 1987, 15 x 21cm, acrylic on paper 

I last saw Stephen in Bulawayo a tew weeks ago; as always, the 
clean-cut. virile, good-looking Stephen with the trimmed beard and 
lithe strong physique. I remarked to myself that he was glowing. He 
was assured and confident, busy but all under control. The Gallery 
was looking perfect; his desk neat and tidy and all his information 
slowed on the computer. He was warm and welcoming and genial. 
He had everything within his grasp. He was happy. We had liaised 
and worked together to put in a show for the young New Directions 
painters and sculptors from Bulawayo and Harare. After the opening 
we had dinner together at his home — Stephen and Neo, Rashid. 
Veryan. Hilary and myself He was excited about the prospect of 
future liaison and we talked about putting in a similar show next year 
at Bulawayo and then taking it through in our cars to Gabarone and 
then an adventure in the desert. He talked a little of him.self and his 
plans for the Gallery. Stephen had a good mind and clear thoughts, 
and he had the practical experience to go with it. He had a good 
.sense of his own purpose, of his role as artist, director, promoter. He 
realised that he had to encourage, to nurture, to support and promote 
the young artists of Bulawayo. We were looking to him to break us 
into the region, as much as him bringing the region into Bulawayo. 
Already in a short time he had turned the Gallery around — 
promoting music and theatre and lectures and attracting artists from 
the region and from overseas. He was talking about three years to 
break out the young artists of Bulawayo and I warned him that it 
might take five to seven years. He was unsure if he had the lime ... 
he had to travel to Sweden, there was the art critics' conference in 
London, there was an offer from an American university to do his 
PhD. But he was intent to stay at Bulawayo and inanage all. He had 
the good of the majority at heart and would fit himself around it as 
best he could. Stephen was a leader and a catalyst; he was an ally; 
he was doing good things, great things and we were with him. 
watching with interest and admiration and respect, and wanting and 
expecting him to go further. Stephen saw his role and he was 
matching it and excelling in it. There is so much still to do ... but we 
have his example." 

In 19S7. Stephen was founding chairperson of the Visual Artists" 
Association of Bulawayo { VAAB) a body which he continued to 
contribute to and encourage. He won a prize for sculpture in the 
Weldart Exhibition of 1987 and then, having been awarded a 
scholarship by the British Council, he left to study for an MA in Art 
and Design Education at Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort 
University). His thesis was entitled Perspectives on Art and Design 
Education in Zimbabwe. 

So by I9SS Stephen had a unique combination of qualifications: 
CIS, BAtFine Art), BSc (Sp. Hons. Sociology) and MA (Art and 
Design Education) as well as wide practical experience in many 
fields and, above all, a passionate commitment to art. He would 
have been the correct choice for the post of Director of the National 
Gallery, however political powers decided otherwise and Stephen left 
for Botswana where he became Senior Curator of Art with the 
National Museum and Art Gallery in Gaborone. The workshop 
movement was gaining momentum in southern African countries and 
Stephen, who fully supported the concept of .such hands-on 
experience and interchange of ideas, became founding deputy 
chairperson of the Thapong International Artists" Workshop Trust 
and attended the first Thapong Workshop \n Kanye. 

His knowledge, personality and work gained him a strong reputation, 
and m 1990 he was appointed Acting Director of the Botswana 
National Museum and Art Gallery, a position which he held until 
1992. In an article in Tlw /.chni's Voice, the newsletter of the 
Botswana Museum and Art Gallery, Stephen wrote: 

"Throughout Africa the study of national art has never been afforded 
the prominence it deserves. Isolated aspects of African art have been 
well documented but. in general, studies have centred on 
ethnographic considerations which \ iew the visual arts in terms ot 
objects and paintings rather than as a living and dynamic form of 
expression. This attitude is apparent in the scarcity of national art 

galleries on the eontinent in relation to (lie ninnber ot niiiseunis. The 
roots of this situation can be traced to the colonial cultural policy 
which viewed African culture as static and belonging to the past. 
Visual art which evolved as a fusion of traditional and western values 
was ignored. 

The response to the project proposal in the SADC countries to date 
has been overwhelmingly positive. Above all there is recognition in 
the region that a new way of looking at the visual arts is vital in 
order to counter an inexorable slide into the realm of commodity and 
curios ... 

... the visual arts remain relatively undeveloped due to the lack of 
emphasis in the education system and to inadequate support for the 
creation of art in general. It is towards the challenge of correcting 
this situation that the newly constituted National Art Gallery directs 

During these years besides rising to the challenges he had set himself 
within the Botswana community, he attended the Culture and 
Development conference in Copenhagen, launched an Mzilikazi 
e.xhibition in Sweden, exhibited his own work in Stockholm, visited 
London and Paris, organised the SADCC 1 0th Anniversary 
Exhibition in Botswana and the Art From the Frontline exhibition for 
the Glasgow Art Gallery, Scotland. He was appointed external 
examiner for art for three years to the Molepole College of 
Education, attended the Triangle Artists' Workshop in Pine Plains. 
New York, and helped organise and attended the annual Thapong 
Workshops. He was a judge for the Standard Bank Biennale in 
Windhoek, lectured at Mpapa Gallery in Lusaka, and took part in the 
Fourth Havana Biennale in Cuba. This list of activities can in no 
way describe, though we can be sure of, his active and energetic 
participation in all aspects of them. 

In 1992, Stephen came back to Zimbabwe as Project Manager for the 
SADCC Regional School of Art and Design (RSAD). This was an 
enterprise dear to his heart and one for which he was well suited. He 
and Neo Matome travelled throughout the region, meeting artists and 
educators, visiting art institutions, talking to government and private 
representatives in the arts fields, getting information and making 
contacts in order to form a clear and practical foundation on which 
the RSAD could be set up. The frustrations were many, not least the 
complete indifference with which the project has been viewed by 
Zimbabwean officials in the last few years. Despite lethargy and 
opposition from his 'colleagues' on the project, Stephen continued to 
fight for u hat he saw as a major initiative for the whole southern 
African arts community. The completion of the RSAD report was 
followed up by papers, lectures and articles, locally, regionally and 
overseas, in an attempt to persuade officialdom to move on. In one 
such article Stephen wrote: 

"The rationale behind the regional art school project is the bringing 
together of the different artists, traditions and cultures that make up 
the region in a spirit of learning, research and the central 
development of visual art in southern Africa ... The school is 
intended to operate on several different levels — degree, diploma, 
certificate, artists in residence — to make allowances for the fact that 
many of the region's top artists do not have academic backgrounds, a 
factor which should not exclude them from the school or deprive 
students of the experience of working and learning from them ... the 
true potential of the region's artists remains relatively untapped. 

Areas such as the theory and history of art are still undeveloped and 
the most crucial area of art education has been neglected in 
comparison to other disciplines ... 

The RSAD provides an opportunity ... from which could emerge a 
new direction for art in the region, a new way of thinking about art 
and a new spirit of regionalism amongst the artists of southern 
Africa ... 

Art education ... needs to be recognised as the wholly appropriate 
and powerful developmental tool which it is capable of being ... 

An overriding result of the lack of educational and art support 
facilities ... is not only a diminished sense of cultural identity but 
also an almost non-existent art market ... 

There is growing recognition that art can in fact help transform 
societies, and that culture has an important and valuable role to play 
in developmental aims." 

In another article for an exhibition catalogue in 1989, Stephen had 

"Many countries in southern Africa, still maintain stronger cultural 
ties with their former colonising powers in Europe than they do with 
some of their regional neighbours. It is in this context that the value 
of bringing together art works and artists from these countries in 
foRims such as this should be assessed." 

Stephen's travels throughout the region in the early 90s confirmed 
this approach and it was in this spirit that he returned to Bulawayo in 
1994 to set up Artconsult with his partner, Neo Matome. He became 
a valued contributor to Galleiy and the Zimbabwean Review, was 
appointed to the board of the National Gallery in Bulawayo and the 
committee of 'VAAB, took on the role of external examiner and 
consultant for the fine art department of Chancellor College in 
Malawi, travelled to Sweden and continued to exhibit his own work 
both within Zimbabwe and abroad. Stephen was given the 
President's Award for Distinction for overall contribution to the arts 
in Zimbabwe as well as the Award for Distinction in Painting for his 
large canvas, Ramalea, at the 1992 Annual Heritage Exhibition. 

Stephen Williams, Ramatea, 1989-91, 200 x 150cm, 
acrylic on canvas 

In 1995, on the resignation of the Director of the National Gallery in 
Bulawayo. Stephen was asked to take on the post of Acting Director. 
Voti Thebe, whose career with the Gallery in Bulawayo stretches 
back to the early 70s spoke about his relationship with Stephen: 

"I met Stephen round about 76/77. when I was working at the old 
Bulawayo Gallery. Each time he came in he would spend some time 
with me. We would talk about this and that, about art and the artist's 
life. When he was doing the survey for the RSAD he came to see 
me, to ask my opinion, whether I was for the idea of this school. I 
had my reservations. My own vision was to start from the grassroots 
and go up. Stephen said, 'Voti, I accept your idea but we could also 
start from the top and filter down and have another movement up 
from grassroot level, meeting at a point. When they meet it is bound 
to regenerate the whole arts community.' He thought that the time 
was right to capture the intellectuals and the political leaders, to get 
them dancing, that way art would go through the whole society. 

Right from when he started as Acting Director there were changes. 
He was a man of vision. He looked at the structures, at what was 
happening, at the thrust of the exhibitions. He started trimming the 
staff. It was painful because some of the people had been here for a 
long time but they were not performing well. Now the Gallery is 
running well. He saw the need to encourage the Bulawayo artists, to 
nurture them, to show work with substance even if it was not of the 
highest calibre, to support wherever there was something going on. 

Stephen would come to me and we would sit down and discuss how 
we could reach the people. We started jazz evenings, plays and the 
like, poetry reading. It changed the whole concept of the Gallery. It 
became a culture house. The Friends of the Gallery were worried 
that this would take the focus off the visual arts but Stephen said let 
the people come in and then we can point them in the direction of 
art. Soon we had many more people coming in. The administration 
in Harare would say "No, no, you can't do that.' But Stephen would 
talk to them and persuade them. 

Stephen believed that the Bulawayo Gallery should be autonomous 
to some degree. The Gallery began to make its own decisions, to 
show its own exhibitions and start its own activities. Buying for the 
permanent collection was previously always done in Harare but 
Stephen persuaded them that sometimes we should choose here, 
from this region, that this Gallery should reflect the art of Bulawayo 
in its collection. Our collection, since he came in, has started to get 
a local flavour. There should be a dialogue between the artists and 
the Gallery because without the artists the Gallery would be nothing. 
Stephen was an artist himself so he could understand both sides, the 
administration problems and the artists' needs. He made sure the 
rents for the studios were low so artists could afford to work for art 
not just for sales. 

Stephen was always ready to try, to take a chance and see what 
would happen; to bring in new ideas and artists. One thing I learned 
from Steve was an openness to ideas. We had a stand at the Trade 
Fair. Somebody phoned and offered a stand and Steve just said, 
'Let's do it!' It was a first ever. He would grab the opportunity. He 
used to say let's not use the well-trodden road, let's start another 
track here, something new. 

He was an encourager and he had a listening ear His office was 
always a hive of activity, with local artists, with business and 
government people, with people just walking in. You didn't need an 
appointment. Someone could just walk in. Stephen was a man of 
the people. He had a sharp memory for people, was easy to talk In 
and he always made time to listen. 

The relationship Steve built up with the public was very good. He 
brought in new people, new ideas, kept in touch with all sorts ol 
o people and involved them in the Gallery. People began to feel they 
were a part of the Gallery. Working with Stephen has given us a 
double dose of energy and morale," 

Stephen made a lasting impact on many lives. Styx Mhlanga, a 
drama consultant using one of the NGB studios talked about the 
opportunities Stephen had given him: 

"Stephen changed the direction of my life. When he was at 
Mzilikazi, he travelled to Canada and met some people who were 
interested in grassroots' theatre. When he came back he went to 
CUSO and proposed the idea of training actors. CUSO agreed to 
fund so Stephen came to Bulawayo and persuaded people at the City 
Council to work with them and the programme began of which I was 
part. Because of Steve I became an actor and got involved in 
producing theatre. It is what I am still doing now, what I love. He 
was just like a brother Everytime I had an idea, I could tell him, and 
one way or another he would give me a push. 

He had this talent of making two opposite parties come together, of 
finding a compromise, of defusing a situation that was dangerous. 
He is the guy who understood what is happening on the other side of 
the town, and people from all sides, all ages. He was a person that 
was rich — he was both an artist and a good administrator, two 
qualities that are rare in one person. Guys that are good artists are 
usually terrible administrators. And if you find people who are good 
administrators they are usually not sympathetic to artists. Artists can 
feel exploited when someone who doesn't love art tries to 
administrate. When you went into his office you never came out 
disappointed. He would not give you something that would 
disadvantage other people, but make sure that the solution was good 
for everyone involved. He got everybody to work together If he 
said no. he would give you rea.sons that would make you happy. 

There were these artists who were from Beira on a workshop here. 
Stephen encouraged me to meet them, to go to Beira also and get 
involved in drama there. He was good, wherever he travelled or 
when any visitors came, he helped people to make contact. He was 
always looking for new avenues he could open. 

People that can understand the community, all the different sectors, 
that can make them feel the Gallery is their place, those people are 
few. You have to make people understand what the Gallery stands 
for and to accommodate them within that. Steve could put a 
different angle, a different perspective on things." 

Rashid Jogee, painter and longtime close friend, found it hard to talk 
about the important place Stephen had in his existence: 

"Stephen acted as a stabiliser for me, okay. Because Stephen was 
there I could have these greater freedoms. Now I'm even worried 
that they don't exist anymore. He used to say 'Its a great life if you 
don't weaken.' 

I met Stephen with Marshall, when they had an exhibition at 
Naakes". We had this great similarity, we liked the .same kind of 
music. 'Cause one thing we had in common, me I love Neil Young 
and Stephen also, he loved Neil Young, we used to sing those same 
songs together I first invited Stephen to my flat when I was 
painting, experimenting. I had received my call-up papers, it was 
76. and I really thought I was going to die in the war. I thought I 
would use up everything I had, all my life, all my paint, in one day 
and then the next morning I would pack up and go to the army. So 1 
painted my whole fiat, everything, and then I got hold of a phone and 
I said, "Hey Stephen, it's Rashid, can you come and see my 

When Marshall passed away I was in the bush. I returned all alone 
to my flat, started up my painting, started my life again, Stephen 
appeared. He used to pitch up in the yard where I was painting, on 
his bike. We used to talk about everything. So Steve and I, as a 
partnership, we survived the war When it got so bleak and dark, I 
can't explain how black il was here in Bulawayo, it was so dark, just 
before handover, Stephen and I were still painting. 

Stephen used to come and go. His visits were momentous and then 
he'd throw me a pack of Gauioise and off he'd go. At crucial 
moments he'd arrive. Even with the racial division and everything, 
the ventures and the strivings that we had to make to reach each 
other, they were great. 

Stephen was my teacher. I quote Stephen Williams: 'Even if you go 
and study basketry tomorrow well and good, whatever you can learn. 
learn it.' Steve told me. "The basis of art, my friend, is drawing.' He 
said. 'Rashid take life drawing as the most serious subject.' And he 
was totally correct. I can't deny it. Our frustration, our argument 
was really the same thing, Stephen and I okay. Stephen used to say, 
'The abstract art school was born in the 50s. We're now in 1996 and 
we're still trying to provide an argument for what we're doing.' He 
was a teacher to me. He taught me to paint. In many ways he taught 
me to do it. Just by encouraging me. Then in my own painting I 
found my own methods, the things I wanted to paint. Well he 
propagated that in many ways, his whole image, even if he didn't 
have to do anything. He just had to sit in the chair and be there, 
Stephen Williams. He was an idol, an image for me okay. And 
that's why I'm complaining, losing my nut, I'm a painter but I need 
other painters to see and look upon, to dazzle me, or to lead me to 
new horizons. 

Stephen was a great workshop person. He was everybody's brother. 
He was everybody's son. He was everybody's nephew, I tell you 
that. I had already coined a phrase for Stephen as manager of 
workshops. I called him the invisible manager, okay. This guy is 
here but he's not really here, he's invisible. 

I tell you I don't want to think too much when I think of the void, the 
consequence, what it means, hey I get very, very depressed. If you 
are living art, you like to see art live, to see its process acted out. 
Stephen was a painter himself, he had his own struggles. We had the 
same discovery, that you had to destroy things totally to get reborn. 
Stephen has achieved things for me. Here is a man who changed my 
life. I tell you honestly, he changed my life. Even in me, there is 
some of him that's living in me, he's changed some things in me 
because of that interaction, that contact. He was very powerful. We 
need people to take control. We need some leaders. His objectivity 
was there, I don't mind working under him. Even when there was 
chaos, that objectivity was there, it was as solid as a rock because it 
was true, it was right." 

Running through Stephen's life was another passion, motorbikes. 
Below are some parts of Steve Harpt's Requiem for a Biker: 

"Stephen wasn't a bike fanatic but he did appreciate being able to get 

out into the bush on a bike. I first met Stephen in 1981 at the 
Haskins motorcycle shop in Francistown, working on his Yamaha 
XT500 before a trip into the Makgadikgadi Pans. The trip was 6 
days travelling in vehicles and bikes via Gweta to the Boteti River 
which was in full Hood. That was August 1981, one of the last years 
of the massive migrations of animals to the Boteti. On our way out 
from the river, the area was literally covered with wildlife from one 
horizon to the next. 

On that trip I had no bike but by December 1 had an XT500 of my 
own and that was when the fun really began. Stephen and I would 
get together whenever possible. We would always take time out for 
at least one jaunt into the rural areas on our bikes or down a small 
track he made or out to the Matopos. He was a good rider and 
normally got there before me, although speed was never really the 
point. Rather it was the freedom from all that we did on a daily 
basis. It was being out ... on the loose ... the fresh air ... the 
excitement of being able to go anywhere! 

The trip thai had the biggest impact on us was one to Kubu Island, 
across Sua Pan from what is now the Soda Ash Plant. The island is a 
large rocky outcrop covered with baobabs. We thought we had it all 
figured out ... just 50kms due southeast from the spit. We had photo 
maps, a compass and an odometer. What more could we need? 

When our bikes finally came to a muddy sinking halt, we had 
travelled 45kms and the island should have been clearly visible. It 
wasn't. After stepping back and reassessing the situation, we 
decided that we were in fact stuck in the bowels of the southern part 
of Sua Pan with only two very faint points of land visible. In a 
radius of 360 degrees, there was absolutely nothing to see except two 
worried boys up to their axles in hot sticky mud. Things were 
looking about as bleak as they ever had in my life. Why did we only 
bring 10 litres of water we asked ourselves. And the heat! The mud 
was almost too hot to dig out from the wheels. It would collect 
under the rear mud-guard until it was packed solid and would then 
act like a brake on the back wheel. When the bike stops, it sinks. 

Stephen decided we should head for the faint point of land to the 
northwest. The routine was to dig out as much of the mud as you 
could and then try to get the bike moving, in first gear, pushing and 
running alongside. As it gathered momentum you'd jump on and see 
if the surface of the pan could accommodate your weight. If the bike 
was sinking, you'd jump off again and start running until you picked, 
up more speed. But we were both fully loaded with gear so once 
you managed to get on the bike, it was just a matter of time, a 
kilometre or two, before the 'brake' would start to operate again and 
it was back to digging and running. 

Stephen Williams on a trip 
through the Sua Pans, 



Stephen Williams, Terra Incognita 8, 1994, 151 x 200cm, acrylic on canvas 

After a couple ot hours of this we were exhausted, thusty and 
covered with salt. Just a little bit of water to rinse the salt off our 
faces? No. we couldn't afford to do that. As the land loomed closer, 
we stepped up our efforts. Stephen was first to arrive at the large 
baobab on the eastern side of the island while I was still digging out 
for the last time. When I reached him. we were like kids, jumping 
up and down, hugging each other, shouting 'We're still alive. We're 
still alive!' We were still short of water but things were definitely 
looking up. We spent the night next to the tree, cooking on a fire, 
reliving the day we would never forget. 

The next morning we contemplated the way out. We had two. 
choices: up the western side of the pan or travel along the sandy road 
which goes from the island to the Nata-Maun Road, about lOOkms 
either way. We chose the pan and after about half an hour travelling 
we found a large pool of water. It was the end of our small 
emergency. Water, our last essential need, was there in front of us. 
We washed up and took some photographs. The rest of the day was 
as it was supposed to be, roaming along the edge of the pan, 
checking out this or that, stopping for a shot of whisky, or just racing 
out into the nothingness. 

Riding on the salt pans is like being in a plane above the clouds or 
drifting in the ocean. As far as you can see there is simply nothing 
except the pan. With no reference points, you may think you arc 
travelling in a straight line but that's rarely possible. At best, it's a 
slight arc which leaves you far from the mark after 40 or .SOkms. It 
is a rare feeling ... setting up camp in the middle of the pan where 
there is absolute silence, watching the moon rise, riding with just the 
moonlight illuminating the way. Setting off again in the morning ... 
for the pure pleasure of it. 

Experiences like this provided Stephen with inspiration lor his 
painting. All around his hut were photos of the pans renunduig him 
of the colours one sees there. Stephen tried to get other people to 
participate in art and experience the joys that came with it. I think 
1 Q his own art was actually secondary to promoting the field and 
generating excitement. 

So why ride a bike'? I don't deny that there might be an adrenalin 
factor or that riding a bike is a way to thumb your nose at the ultra- 
civilised road the world seems to be going on. But basically it is for 
the pure enjoyment of getting outside ... going somewhere you 
haven't been before. The freedom it affords is something you never 

There seems no way to convey what Stephen meant to so many 
people. He was a man with a gift for life and for art, and he shared 

and multiplied those gifts with everyone he knew. We are lucky to 
have known and loved him. Andrew Whaley writes: 

"Stephen is my introduction lo Bulawayo — a gatekeeper to a city. 
The Bulawayo that he lets me glimpse is old. even a little 
grandiloquent, but it exudes a fervour that is exciting. I am keen to 
experience some of it. this knowledge that he carries just by coming 
from Skies. What I later learn from Stephen is that he represents 
something quintessentially Bulawayo. or rather an enlightenment 
that we now recognise as the civilising heart of Bulawayo and its 
countless artists in performance, paint, pottery, metal, wood and 
sandstone. I want lo know all of it and Stephen in a way that 
personifies the sandstone city tor me. slows me down. In good time. 
Stephen is not in a rush and he will not instantly di\ulge its secrets. 

For as long as I have known Stephen, he has defended the interests 
of a city that seemed perniancnily under seige — from its first 
setllenients. federation days, through UDI. into independence, posl- 
indepcndence. unity days and today when it seeks siniph water. 
Stephen has supported any move to bring life to the old cily. an\ way 
possible of bringing its citi/ens together. 

In the National Clallery in Bulawaso. he had the perfect mould and 
it's easy to forget just how simply he slipped into the cast, how 
perfectly it suited him, how effortlessly he seemed to be a part of its 
creation. In any shape an art future had in Bulawayo. Stephen 
seemed to be superimposed onto it years before it began to blossom 
into the ci\ ic structure we see lodav. 

The times I lia\e known Stephen — when he is not llie noni;id 
pursuing a career at university, here or overseas, or being the 
regional art diplomat or setting up art networks in Gaberone. Harare. 
Stockholm, or zooming off into the Kalahari on his bike, or up 
Africa in a Land Rover with Paul Goodwin or wherever he went — 
he's at home in Bulawayo just getting on with it. He turns the 
Mzilikazi Art and Cral't Centr.' from a hobbled municipal outlet 
which churns out turd-brown and sinus-green earthenware into a 
vital institute which puts colour into the pottery, .some funky design, 
holds art exhibitions and gives the welded metal sculptors an 
oxyacetylene boost into the limelight. The moment Dumiso 
Dabengwa is released from prison, he grabs him to open a show of 
young students at Mzilikazi. sometime in 1*^86. 

He turns the old stone Hillside house he bought for a song into a 
great home full of earlier Stephen figurative works and always a fine 
selection of music which he brings back from his many travels. He 
has friends from all these places who come and visit and somehow, 
Bulawayo is a magical place to all of them. Stephen resides in its 
allure, its bite, its edge of desert exhiliration and the city's little 
tristia. I can't think of all of this and not think romantically about 
the place — and Stephen, on his motorbike zooming off into the 
bush or braaing meat and talking out the back of his house, under the 
stars, somehow always conducted a long, romantic love affair with 
Bulawayo perhaps also because he could get away. 

Stephen is a link back to Marshall Baron and a way forward with the 
San paintings of Botswana. In between there is a full and 
remarkable association with so many painters and sculptors — Paul 
Goodwin. Reuben Crowe, Berry Bickle, Rashid Jogee whom he 
always called Zimbabwe's greatest painter, Voti Thebe, Charles 
Msimanga. Tomy Ndebele, Sam Songo. Joseph Muzondo. Mary 
Davies plus the international artists. Stephen is the first 
Zimbabwean to go to a Triangle Workshop in New York and he loves 

the cut and thrust of the Americans, the critiques and of course the 
complete understanding of abstract, and he despises the utter lack of 
understanding of the Americans for African contemporary work. 
Stephen is in Sweden at workshops, and in South Africa. He sets up 
more workshops in Botswana. He is a steaming networker. 
meticulous and even ruthless at times and he gets, a lot of the time, 
what he wants. 

Stephen has put out many feelers all over the globe but his root taps 
into Skies and, yes somehow, it is still there. It is hard to dissociate 
Stephen Williams from the present, impossible to lock him away in 
the past. I am not being coy when I say that, in a lot of ways that 
Bulawayo knows about. Stephen lives." 

Those who take on a leading role in southern Africa's cultural sphere 
have many fights to fight and a great deal of commitment is 
necessary. The visual arts still have a weak foundation compared to 
other arts such as music, dance and theatre, and huge efforts have to 
be made to win support and recognition for their role in the 
development of the society. Stephen leaves behind not only his 
example but also a wealth of writings about the arts, art education, 
and the role of the arts in our community in its historical context. It 
is time to take them off the shelf and re-read them with an eye on the 
possibilities for action — theory is of no use unless it can be made to 
work for the good of the people. Great efforts must be made to keep 
up all that Stephen has put in motion. 

Stephen Williams dedicated himself, with love, energy, intelligence 
and hard work, to art in Africa: to creating environments in which 
people could find their place and develop their talents; to a 
community in which art and artists could flourish. We are privileged 
o have known him. even though it was for far too short a time. 

Stephen Williams, Culture in the Time of Drought, 1992, 54 x 72cm, watercolour 




Soft sculpture by Anita Dube (India) 


of the moon 

Workshops provide a stimulating environment 
in which artists can meet, create and exchange 
ideas. The Botswana painter 
and writer, Neo Matome, 
reports from Namibia 

From 1 1 to 25 May 1996, the Tulipamwe 
International Artists' Workshop took place in 
Namibia at the incredibly atmospheric Zebra 
River Lodge run by Rob and Marian Field. 
The lodge is located in the heart of the Tsaris 
Mountains, approximately 250kms south- 
west of Windhoek and 90kms from Sesriem 
and Sossusvlei. The dramatic surroundings 
are reminiscent of a moonscape with their 
craggy, granite mountains, infinite sky and 
endless rocky vistas. During the intense 
two- week period of the workshop when we 
were looked after and fed like royalty, this 
isolated environment with its harsh beauty 
became a focal point and source of 
inspiration for the invited participants. 

In all, 25 artists — painters, sculptors and 
printmakers — from diverse backgrounds 
took part. Fourteen were Namibians and the 
rest came from France, Zambia, Germany, 
India. Kenya, Reunion, South Africa, Spain, 

(top) View of workshop site at 
Zebra River Lodge 

(above) Participants at a group 


(above) Job Jonathan 


working on his installation 

(below) Textile 
by Voti Thebe 


BolswaiKi. L'nilcd Kingdom and 
Zinibahwe. A strong spirit of camaraderie 
prevailed throughout the course ot the 
worlcshop thus enabling the artists to freely 
interact with each other. There was also a 
good supply of materials ranging from 
paints, printing inks and fabric dyes 
thrt)ugh to sculpting tools, stone, wood and 
found objects. The workshop was 
punctuated by "walkabouts" or group 
critiques whereby each artist was given 
feedback about his or her work by the rest 
i.i\ the group. In the evenings slide shows 
of artworks by the different artists were 
held so as to provide insight into how each 
participant approached his or her imagery 
and to stimulate discussion about the role 
and value of art in society. The night 
occasionally rounded off by singing to 
guitar accompaniment, around a fire, under 
the stars. 

In terms of the output of the workshop. 
some of the most interesting art was 
produced by Anita Dube. an Indian artist. 
She created soft sculpture, made from blue 
velvet decorated with sequins and silver 
thread, resembling a stretched animal skin. 
The idea of life and death existing 
simultaneously in the baiTen Namibian 
landscape inOuenced the work. It 
challenges us to examine our hopes, fears 
and understanding of life and death by 
presenting us with the paradoxical image of 
death beautified. By so doing. Dube subtly 
alludes to the concept of hope and rebirth 
through reincarnation. .She also highlights 
the notion that mortality is an integral part 
of regeneration in the circle of life. 

The unique Namibian en\ ironment played 
a marked role in the work of a number of 
the artists at Tulipamwe, more so after the 
awe-inspiring trip to Sossusvlei. Eric 
Pongerard. the sculptor from Reunion, was 
inspired by the vastness of the land and sky 
in Namibia. The striated structure of the 
surrounding mountains as well as the 
division of the landscape into two by the 
road running through it made a strong 
impression on him. This imagery is 
retlccted in his column-like stone 
installation pieces which have qualities 
evocative of the work of the renov\ned 
British artist. Andy Goldsworthy. 
Cioldsworthy produces art using natural 
elements found in the environment such as 
leaves and ice. Unfortunately Pongerard's 
piece lost some of its appeal when it was 
moved from its outdoor surroundings and 
installed at the National Gallery in 

The young Namibian painter. Shiya 
Karuseb. tackled an issue which is 
increasingly becoming a permanent feature 
of city life in southern .Africa — that of 
street childien. His strong figurative 
imagery portrays despondent looking 
youths with no hope for a future: a legacy 
forced on them by poverty, irresponsible 
parents and society turning a hliiul eye. 

The intense blue that dominates the canvas 
conveys an aura of bleakness and anguish — 
a reflection of the mounting social problems 
created by homelessness. Two other young 
Namibian artists who produced interesting 
work are Nita Ndongo. a sculptor who 
\\ orked in stone, and Job Jonathan who not 
only painted but tried his hand at making 
installation art. 

The South African artist, Philisiwe Sibaya. 
added another dimension to the workshop 
u ith her inspirational prints. .She 
enthusiastically shared her know ledge and 
skill with everyone. After Tulipamwe. she 
hosted a printmaking workshop for the art 
students at the John Muafangejo Art Centre 
in Windhoek. 

Painter/sculptor Voti Thebe from Zimbabwe 
experimented with different media including 
wood, stone and soft sculpture. He 
produced a beautiful handpainted fabric as 
well as an impressive circular minimal wood 
piece partially stained with colour. Though 
somewhat different in texture and form, the 
sculpture had a certain resemblance to a 
piece by Gerry Dixon I had once seen at 
Gallery Delta. 

Eric Liot, the French artist, produced two 
sensitively assembled pieces constructed 
from mixed media. The one artwork, made 
of rectangular units of wood and metal held 
together with wire, brought to mind the 
piece by Marsha Pels, the American artist, 
mentioned by Stephen Williams and 
reproduced in Gallciy no 7. His artworks. 
like Liot himself, are imbued with a sense of 

It is evident from the variety of work 
produced and the communication channels 
established during the Tulipamwe 
Workshop, that art is a universal language 
capable of crossing cultural barriers and 
changing attitudes. The visual arts therefore 
play an important role as a barometer of 
social change. In light of this, it is our 
responsibility as southern African artists, 
black and white, male and female, to 
constantly challenge ourselves to go beyond 
portraying safe, conventional imagery by 
experimenting with new, innovative ways of 
expressing our vision. We need to create art 
that is multifarious and enquiring because 
we are society's conscience. 

The benefits of international art workshops 
such as Tulipamwe are far-reaching. 
Through workshops a healthy cross- 
fertilisation of ideas takes place and artists 
from diverse backgrounds are able to 
establish links with each other, share 
techniques and experiences. These regional 
workshops are of particular value to 
southern African artists who tend to work in 
isolation with little stimulus. Tulipamwe is 
thus an important medium for fostering 
cultural exchange, understanding and growth 
in the visual arts of not only Namibia but the 
southern African region as a whole. 

(right) Painting 
on the plight of 
street children 
by Shiya 

Influenced by 
the trip to the 
dunes at 
Sossusvlel by 
Neo Matome 


Brian Bradshaw, Vukutu, 1996, 

120 X 150cm, oil on canvas (Photo courtesy 

Everard Read Gallery) 

Unable to interview 
Brian Bradshaw, 
painter, ex-Director 
of Zimbabwe's 
National Gallery and 
former Professor of 

Art at Rhodes 
South Africa, 
Gallery sent 
some questions 
Brian Bradshaw 
writes from 
Belmont, UK: 



^^5^^^P^h»-!f_i^^^' AA 


Reflection (momentary) 


Recent work Recently went to N. Namaland. No flowers. No Tourists. Touching S. of 
Namibia. Wonderful. Very Hot. 39°C. Red Desert. Red Rock. Whoever 
described Africa as Darkest! In fact it is Brightest. Vibrates. Absorbs. I move 
about and get the feel of a place. A whole place and more than place. The Red 
Earth, Bomvu, is more than a colour (as the Himba know). The fire and dust. 
The Great Earth. The Power that is Nature. Not here the passive tinkle-tinkles of 
domestic Mediterranean light-and-shade which bred pointillism and Colour 
Theory playing on Gardens and pink-blue flesh. Here is the heat of Being. 
Conflict. Strength undiluted. The Great Past enfolding Present. Embracing. 
Gripping. Hammering a heat which is not for leisure-pleasurers lotion-browning. 
AFRICA! where Sun bites Earth. Bruises Rock with brutal Force. Pressures 
without and bums within. Alone, but not alone. Meeting — UNKULUNKULU! 

A person — must have been American — visited (I think) southern Africa. 
Caused quite a stir among ART-CIRCLES (those things 'tis said that the Great 
Bird disappears up). His name — I think — was Greenberg. He said that Art had 
taken all it could from Nature! No more left! Nature was dead! What about 
human nature? Was that dead too? Did he say? Was he dead? — In his case, 

Intentions If I could describe in words, what I paint, why I paint, how I paint, there would be 
no reason for me to paint. But there is a reason, and a need — and it's in the 
painting. And the only medium would be OIL — and no artificial substitutes — 
with colours compounded from Earth — and brushed, swept, punched, stabbed, 
knived on the resilient surface of canvas. The physicality of Act is important. 
The shaking off. the being rid of repeat technique — of any technique and think- 
thought and art-applied consciousness and the digging deep to what must be 
sought and, eventually, must be found — before peace is possible — or at least, a 
rest in the mud. The physical paint — the vehicle — must never go dead — must 
keep alive. The Nature of Paint — of oil paint — must be used and handled 
within terms of its character 

Subject, study "The proper study of mankind is man." Or is it — necessarily? Or maybe. Or 
more appropriately, for man — woman. Naked i.e. Natural and therefore 
unglamourised. But such attitude amounts to anything. The more alive — which 
means moving — the belter. Posing is for photographs or paintings like 
photographs. African animals do not pose. They shake off flies They conceal 
themselves. They use camouflage. Land, Earth, Sky do not pose. It can be de- 
natured by viewfinder into scape or scene. It can be Beauty-spotted like Princess 
Di. It can be processed for industrial purposes. But Nature to qualify unto itself 

musl be Natural and Free and Wild. With such Nature one inay freely mix and be 
driven and compelled. There is no Time. Everything is Now. Everything is 
Eternity. Senses are folded by the beat of sun and the roar of silence. I am in 
company with Earth and Sky. There is no horizon or petty perspective. I am with 
ALL that needs be and have become Myself and More and as far removed from 
Science and Technology as possible. I make marks to help explain. Not look-see 
marks but marks urged by all senses. These will point the way to work with paint 
involving. Subject? What? There are many things even in one. Woman; 
Leopard: Baboon : Bird. But never cosmetic. And the greatest of all. The 
World. Earth and Sky. Cosmological. How does one define that — in the Art 
Calendar? What category? Landscape?! Not really. I'm just a Painter. 

Art scene This anywhere is groupism, togetherism in the social sense and scene. 

Pretentious of course — as are all social scenes. The set and the setting : the 
atmosphere : the theatrics : the cocktails and the poses-for poseurs and in-the- 
swing-incorporates. Hollywood style trivialities. "How are you Daarling — I 
just love that one. Naughty Gerald (he's the critic for the Daily Blab) says the 
sky is quite wrong for the Transvaal. Could I pleese have another sherry." 

African art Important to Africa — and the world. Not for museums and Interior Decor. Not 
for Tourists — who in any case prefer the hectares of Junk especially produced 
for them. The Real Art is powerful, meaningful and has a strong sense of form 
containing the presence of Ancestral Spirits and breathed-on by God. It has the 
essence of Bomvu — the Earth of Life. It is Tribal and Traditional and means 
much to the People of Africa. Or it did. Depending upon how much the African 
remains African and doesn't become a replicated junkie from Haarlem or the 
White House. Thousands of its greatest works were destroyed by Missionaries. 
European artists in the throes of modernism imitated and made use of African 
Masks and, according to History, revolutionised Art. Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, 
Giacometti. Modigliani. Matisse etc. In essence they were mostly interested in 
the outer form which is unique in itself. Unfortunately much is now trivialised 
for Trade (but no more so than art anywhere which is plagiarised). 

AFRICA Since I have chosen to live in Africa more than half my life, I am more African 
than European. By Africa, I mean Africa — not the quasi-Mediterranean of the 
Cape, nor the good-life coffee-shops and pizza places. As the world deteriorates 
(i.e. becomes Americanised) I become progressively more African. I find the 
natural dignity, good manners and humour of the African more fitted to the 
character of humanity than the crude, gormless, un-culture followers of the 
Yankee plan who stalk the cities particulariy at weekends! However much things 
change (and Coca-cola expands), the Land. Continent, Mountains, Bush and 
Earth of Africa remain as vast, wild and true as ever. Tourist Trails and Safari 
Treks which follow the New Trade Routes make no more impression on the Giant 
of Africa than a mosquito on an Elephant. Leisure-pursuit-sports may help 
destroy Beauty Spots such as Vic Falls, but minor concentraUon at selected 
GETAWAY-GETWITHIT sites helps keep most places free of litter. On a recent 
airflight to Europe I heard a South African tell British Tourists that the KAROO 
was boring and best avoided. I would be happy if he tells everyone that and helps 
keep all the best places clear and clean. Poor fellow, he was greatly taken by the 
absurd quality of Inflight films! I became South African some thirty years ago. 

Previous work My previous work has, of course, like life and attitudes gone through different 
stages and developments. But not enormously — like this week to "Hard Edge" 
and next to "Kitchen Sink". Painting has always been a quest. A personal 
exploration. As simple and direct as is eventually possible. As unsafe, as natural, 
as uncalculating as needs must be. First, Drawings — and Etchings — and then 
more and more into Paint. First, Buildings — and then Men (Miners) and 
Women and Birds and Dogs and Cats. And then Mountains of Wales. And Sea. 
The rhythm and power of sea waves. Then more and more to Earth. And so, to 
Africa. But always alone i.e. never encamping with schools and styles. 

Artists t particularly admire 

Ambrogio de Lorenzetti: Paolo Ucello; Hercules Seghers (etchings); Matisse; 
Gericault; David; De Kooning; Derwent Lees; Old Crome; Vespignani (etchings); 
Sheila Fell; Pederson; and Cedric Morris, who made his own paint (that great 
Welsh Cormorant over his fireplace). Artists before the High Renaissance; Ikons; 
Early Greek (Kourai); Early Greek Pots; Cycladic; Minoan; Etruscan; Early 
Egyptian; Eariy Gothic; Early Celtic; Megalithic; Prehistoric (the masterpiece of 
Lascaux); Bushman Rock Paintings; Tribal and traditional African — Hausa, 
Himba, Baule, Senufo, Dogon, Bambara, Dan, Yoruba, Fon, Ibo, Shango, Pende, 
Masai. Makonde, Tuareg, Shona, Zulu. 


One of the greatest paintings I know is hidden at the end ot a rock passage in 
Matabeleland. The tunnel so small one needs to wriggle through. The work is 
near to one"s head i.e. close to the ground. About 12 or so inches high. A running 
hunter/warrior. Patterns of water energy mix with his image. The artist painted 
him hundreds of years ago in such a place and position for necessary reasons. He 
will remain so. As intended. With purpose intact. And as far as 1 am concerned — 
undiscovered. It is a great work. As art. it is alive. And remains Living Legend. 


Completely different is Modern Myth massively sponsored for various reasons, 
like all selective news and propaganda. News Agencies collect news and 
newspapers select. The Press needs to sell. And the stories are written. Two 
recent news items almost simultaneously revealed: 

1 . The electronic bombing and selective shelling of Lebanese civilians in a further 
invasion of Lebanon. Killing about 160 women and children. Ambulances and 
UN compounds containing wounded and refugees also targeted. Deliberate 
destruction of thousands of homes and of roads to prevent any attempted aid and 
assistance. Such action compares with the Nazi SS practice of wiping out an entire 
village because a single Nazi had been killed. It was aptly code-named "Grapes of 
WRATH" and was condemned by all countries except the US of A. A UN 
investigations team concluded the above events were correctly reported. The US of 
A warned the UN team and threatened to replace the UN Secretary General. 

2. The US of A is pressing for trials of selective war criminals in Bosnia! The 
Western Press is loath to respond. But the aggressors are sometimes termed 
victims — and the victims are called aggressors. 

What is to be called Truth!" Are we to be concerned with Truth'^ 

As far as war crimes go what about those of the US of A' Was the dropping of the 
A bomb — and the H bomb — Not a war crime? And the Napalm bombing of the 
Vietnamese? And the electronic slaughter of 600.000 Iraqis in retreat? How can 
massacre by technology be called Heroic War'^ and the General .in charge be called 
"Hero"! How can US Diplomacy be congratulated' How can US Administration 
be thanked for supplying further technological weapons of destmction? 

It is a terrible thing that one country exerts such singular power. Especially when, 
in its short history it has reached such depths of decadence. The World's Greatest 
Democracy — as it is pleased to call itself — is actually a World Dictatorship, for 
there are many ways of achieving totalitarianism. Is Art the only forni of truth left? 
But not even there — we know by Art-Internationalism that standardisation and 
deplorable uniformity of approach and new technology have taken over the Art- 
World as well as everything else. Apart from massacres of the innocent there is 
destruction of the individual. Everywhere is tuned to the same set of Rules. 
Everywhere begins to look the same. Everybody begins to dress the same — to 
eat. to drink the same. To behave the same. And Orwell's prophecy is ignored. 

Since there are no bite-backs — except for the Somali people who sent the 
almighty US Marines back into an untele\ ised sea departure — the World Media is 
strapped, frozen, bought by Mickey Mouse. There ;.v no Real New s. No tangible 
fact is allowed to come clean and forward. People are kept bemused and amused 
by cellular phones and entertainment and even the dying are assaulted by 
handshakes from junked-up pop stars or publicity-seeking princesses. 

Brian Bradshaw, Eastern 
Highlands. 1996, 60 x 120cm, 
oil on canvas (Photo 
courtesy Everard Read 


Brian Bradshaw, 
Red Dwala, 1996, 
110 X 140cm, 
oil on canvas 
(Photo courtesy 
Everard Read 

So how is truth to be found? Except by the only way that truth can ever be 
found. Not by computer but by oneself. In Art and by Art one always has to 
reach truth by oneself. There is no other way for anyone to discover anything 
except by individual effort (which is why the new system places highest 
priority on elimination of the individual). Prize-winners in all aspects of 
international (i.e. totalitarian) life are anti-individuals and community Reps — 
those who cannot reach into themselves nor would not for the sake of comfort 
and conformity. 

It has all happened before, of course. The New 
World is not that original. As Petronius wrote in 
Nero's time: 

"The cause of present decadence when all the 
finest arts have withered — and painting has left 
not even a faint track of former excellence behimi 
— is money lust and dominance by usury. In past 
times the Arts were vigorous and rivalry between 
men was the wish to discover new things for 
humcmity. Do not be amazed at the breakdown of 
painting when a lump of gold replaces everything 
the gods ever wrought'' 

We should perhaps expect to be confronted today 
with a continuous Cat-walk Parade of Junk 
Culture. We, perhaps, should not be surprised to 
see doped-up DADA dragged back into Gallery 
space — and skateboard contemporary trivia 
clogging up achievements of the Past and honest 
efforts of the present. 

Henry Miller was an honest American. He wrote: "There are barely a half-dozen 
names in the hisloiy of America which have meaning." Thoreau was one. He 
escaped to the wood at Walden, away from the false skin of a country which had 
no depth beyond its unnatural epidermis. He wished to live deliberately and 
confront only the essential facts of life — deep with Nature — to draw the 
marrow from its bones. To arrive at simplicity of structure and purpose in 
Solitude. In Space. In Nature — and by Nature to be wholly involved. To mix 
intelligence with Earth, in terms of Earth. To discover anew the great Past ever 

Brian Bradshaw, 
Lowveld, 1996, 
71 X 61cm, oil on 
canvas (Photo 
courtesy Everard 
Read Gallery) 


Walt Whitman said that he characterised American life as mean and vulgar. 
Everything taught by America was false. Where man was declared to be Free he 
was NOT. His life and work became Factory-systematised and its products like 
rotting apples had to be quickly consumed or thrown away. We know from 
experience the influence of this Junk Power We know the spread of fast Junk 
food: Junk drink; Junk (award-winning) films; Junk (best-seller) books; Junk 
Oscars and prizes; Junk politics; Junk criteria — and Junk Art. 

We see that the US, having got rid of all vestiges of British Imperialism grabs for 
itself alternative methods of world occupation — using Peace and Trade and Aid 
wars to spread its 'special' Culture. Economy and Technology. We see that no 
policy comes dirtier than " International' and no attitude more absurd than 
Political correctness — the mark of Quislings. We find that the Western Press is 
a tool for the US cause and that Art Ijecomes an International Game. Even 
'terrorism' has a double meaning to fit US policy and hide its own multiple war 
crimes. The Art and Culture of every country should be free-searching and 
honest. Trade must not be allowed to dictate. The US Dollar must not be 
Almighty. Good films (mostly French) should not be suppressed in order to 
show US trash. Video weddings and video games are only some of the effects of 
the Modern Myth, soft-sold as junk alternatives for Real Culture, Real Art and 
the search for the Truth. 

Advice for young artists 

Don't believe everything you see in Gallery Space - 
you see. Disneyland is nearer than you think! 

■ or necessarily everything 

Do not imitate. Art is NOT that easy. Don't look for Recipes and short cuts. Art 
is No Game — pretending to be clever. It is hard and fulfilling WORK. It is not 
divided into Traditional and Contemporary since it is NOT style and Academic 
Manner. It is honest search. Personal, Individual Search. 

It is the pursuit of Nature. Including Human Nature and one's own Nature. The 
Nature of Man. The Nature of earth. The Nature of life. 

Art is not sociological science or the Yahoo of social workers. It is not feminist 
propaganda and fantasy. It is not sexist or political statements. It is not a wired- 
up machine or a chopped-in-half something. Machine art or .science is for 

Art is not Cat-walk-Fashion. It is not being so damned clever! 

Know thyself. BE Yourself. 

Art is the pursuit of a Life Time. There are NO Quick methods. Experience. 
Personal experience is the only Guide. 

Repetition is useless. 

In its making uncertainty is necessary. 

It is Not Cosmetic. Not making pretty pictures. 

It must be investigative. Each work requires its own approach. 

Don't think things in Advance. Don't get hookcd-on-formulae. 
Don't think about the Golden Section. Don't think of A-R-T. 
Don't get mixed up with Art Courses and Art Books and Art Circles. 
Be yourself and do it yourself. 

AFRICA AFRICA is Ancient. It has traditions like the roots of a Giant Tree. It has Great 
Space; Red enriching soil and clay; wild places and Pure desert and Rocks 
stamped by Age. In Africa, Nature is supreme. It remains the last Truth of the 
Old World. A changing world as tried and tested by Nature. Past and Present arc 
always merging. There is more ol the Past than there is of momentary present. 
They need each other to grow. When the last vestiges of the rotten tlesh cast by 
the New World are cleared by the Vultures, the Cycle of life fit for Man, Woman, 
Beast and Art will continue. 


I paint to be deep with Nature. Within Nature. By Nature. To Join. Tomixuith 
Earth. Red Earth. Bomvu. In terms of Alrica. 1 don't paint 'landscapes'. 1 
paint AFRICA. 


Tashinga Group, 
Violence against 
Women (detail) 

Tendai Gumbo, 
If We Had Known 

Women Visual Artists' Exhibition 
1996, August/September, National 
Gallery, Harare 

The IdcuI point of the Women Visual Artists" 
exhibition is Sisters, a paper cut-out chain of 
dolls, lite-size, pale pink, each with a red 
smiling mouth and a wavy skirt, hands 
joined. The chain underlines the sisterhood 
and inter-relation of all women's lives. The 
innocence of this first impression is starkly 
and horrifyingly at variance with the 
handwritten stories of individual women, 
many of them still only children, from 
countries around the world — factual stories 
of abuse, deprivation, degradation, 
discrimination and violence. The effect is 
shocking. Sisters is a powerful protest and, 
significantly, it is the work of a non- 
Zimbabwean. This society largely ignores 
and covers over its treatment of women, Zimbabwean woinen's passive 
acceptance. Much of the rest of the work on 
show reveals the breadth of this unassertive 

Sylvia Bews-Wright, the creator of Sisters. 
invited viewers to add their own comments 
to the blank dolls in her chain, and one 
contribution from an anonymous "sister 
from Latin America" went as follows: 

I "Women 's lives are Inird Imt not tliis l^leali. 

I Women still lauglt, dance and tell stories to 

I their children — even in landmine-infested. 

war torn, dirt — .... countries. Let's put 

some hope and joy into this gloom." 

Yes, lets's be 'real' traditional Zimbabwean 
women and smile, and kneel, and ululate 
while many of us are being abused! 

There are some examples of protest from 
Zimbabweans on the exhibition but the 
protest is subtle, masked or often undirected. 
Tendai Gumbo's Nehanda is a successful 
work in tattered rag on sackcloth — a telling 
memorial for a heroine of the liberation 

struggle: it is the men, 
the chefs, who vie with 
one another to get a 
place in Heroes' f^cre. 
Sylvia Bews- Wright's 
second work on the 
exhibition. Chef, offers 
us a rendition of one of 
Zimbabwe's potential 

Amongst the textiles on 
exhibition is Violence 
against Women 
produced by the 
Tashinga Group (women 
from the Harare Shelter 
for the Destitute). It 
depicts, in small 
I embroidered panels, 
^ various scenes of 
^ domestic abuse. But the 
~ viewer has to look 

Tendai Gumbo, Nehanda 

closely to even notice the violence and little 
appropriate emotion is aroused. The detail 
illustrated here is the most expressive of the 
panels. The overall impression of the work 
is one of cheerfulness, bright zingy colours, 
delicate stitchery — the visual affect 
working against the content rather than 
supporting it. 

Some categories of this exhibition, 
particularly sculpture and ceramics, had few 
submissions. Pip Curling comments in the 
catalogue, " ... the selectors noted that 
traditional women potters were sadly 
missing. Pottery is a major craft in 
Zimbabwe and it is disappointing that rural 
women have not participated." It was 
decided therefore not to award prizes for the 
ceramics category. And. as very few young 
artists participated, prizes for artists under 
25 were redistributed in the open categories. 
So where are those young female artists' 
works'? Where are the sculptors and 
traditional potters? Does the concept of 
exhibiting pottery in a gallery in Harare have 
any meaning for a potter in the rural areas? 
Has there been enough information and 
promotion for this event? There is obviously 
a need to actively encourage artists to enter 
this exhibition — a job for the staff of the 
National Gallery. 

There is no doubt though that those who 
chose to enter represent a wealth of talent 
within the female artists in Zimbabwe. 
Lauren Amott (Love and Hunger) and 
Eichardt Krog {Lunch Break) were given 
awards in the painting section, Tendai 
Gumbo (If we had known - Daitaziva) and 
Granete Ngirandi ("Voo-Doo) for their 
graphics, Abigail Dzingire (Cultural Design) 
and Eunice Saleka (Life at Home) in the 
textile category, and Colleen Madamombe 
(First Maternity Dress) and Virginia 



Sylvia Bews-Wright, Chef 


Ndandarika (Hiippx Family) received awards for 
their sculptures. 

Sibonile Ndlovu's liiglily recommended lively 
fabric design Inkezo Ynkunathisa. with its richness 
(if pattern and colour reminds of works by 
Hundertwasser. Doris Kampura's five very 
different entries in the sculpture, painting, and 
graphics categories, reveal a versatile young 
artist. My Inner Landscape by Anke Bohne, a 
mixed media collage, uses feathers, pods and bits 
of rubbish on the shores of a stonny beach to 
create a moody work. This approach is continued 
in her Junk Head made from metal scraps and 
other discards of society. 

Do women artists necessarily have to produce 
protest art? Male artists are not decried if they 
paint landscapes, daily scenes or abstracts. Do 
women artists want to show their work in an 
exhibition exclusively for women? Is there an 
exhibition planned for "only' men? When does 
affirmative action become patronising and 
destructive? One highly esteemed woman artist 
in Zimbabwe feels strongly that if a work of art is 
good it will be exhibited regardless of the gender 
of the artist and that this is what all artists seek. 
But is the playing field level? Do women artists 
have to work harder to get work exhibited? Are 
galleries aware of women's reluctance to put 
themselves forward, an attitude deeply ingrained 
by Zimbabwean upbringing? It is a proven fact 
that women have more difficulty getting 
education and that a greater proportion of their 
time is consumed by family and domestic duties 
on top of regular income-generating work. Is 
enough being done by art schools and galleries to 
ensure that women artists get the same 
encouragement and support as their male 
counterparts? These are questions for everyone to 
consider, particularly the National Gallery which 
is our presumed leader in the visual arts field. If 
the National Gallery is serious in its intentions, it 
has some hard work to do. to clarify its aims and 
to ensure that such a project does not backfire. 
Jutta Jackson and Barbara 

I Recordings: A Select Bibliography 
- of Contemporary African, Afro- 
I Caribbean and Asian British Art 
' by Melanie Keen and Elizabeth Ward 

(London: Institute of International 

Visual Arts, 1996) 

In her Inlioduction to Recordings. Melanie Keen 
makes a reference which reflects on the book's 
rather cumbersome title: "From this point on I 
will use the word 'black' — with a lower case h 

— to describe people of African. Afro-Caribbean. 
.South East Asian and Asian descent while 
acknowledging it as a contentious issue and that 
other expressions may have been used in its 
place" She might have added, too. that the 
"British" in the title allows the inclusion of artists 

— our own Tapfuma Gutsa among them — who 
have lived there only temporarily. 

The book presents a chronology of 
exhibitii)ns held over the last 25 years, followed 
by a listing of artists with their exhibition history 
and related publications, and ends with a 
bibliography of general texts. All of these will be 
useful to researchers, historians and those of us 
with a more than passing interest in the subject, 
who have neither the time nor the opportunity to 
trawl the Chelsea College archive on which the 
book is largely based. 

There are the occasional gaps, of course. Na.seem 
Khan's 1976 study. The Arts Britain Ignores. 
although not quite as comprehensive as it was 
ambitious, should warrant at least a mention. 
And whilst the book finds room to list Margaret 
Garlake's Art Monthly review of Eddie Chambers, 
it seems to overlook Chambers' own The .Unpack: 
A History of Black Artists in Britain ( 1988. 
funded by the Haringay Arts Council), which 
although limited in its scope, was a well- 
illustrated introduction to the subject for school 
children and their teachers. 

The main shortcoming of Recordings, though, is 
the one imposed by the elusive and ephemeral 
nature of the primary documents on which it 
depends, and the shifting fortunes of the 
institutions which showed the work. Having 
worked at London's Africa Centre in the late 70s, 
I was saddened — but not altogether surprised — 
to read that it no longer has regular exhibitions of 
contemporary art. However, when 1 recall the 
busy and creative presence of, for instance, 
Lubaina Himid in the Covent Garden of those 
years, it surprises me that the entry in Recordings 
contains no reference to her exhibiting prior to 

Importantly, the book does reflect something of a 
coming-ot-age over the decades. The 70s and 
early 80s were studded with mention of the Africa 
Centre, the Commission for Racial LqualilN. Ilie 
Minority Arts Advisory Service, the 
Commonwealth Institute and the agencies of the 
lamented Greater London Council. Today, the 
ball is properly in the hands of the artists 
iheiiiscKcs: the indefatigable ("luunhers. Kasheed 
Araeen, and the Institute of International Visual 
Arts for whom Keen and Ward compiled 
Rcconlings. And safe hands they are, too. 

Murray McCartney 

Furniture and Furnishings, 
National Gallery in Bulawayo, 
August/September 1996 

Why h;i\e a boriny chair when you can have 
an extraordinary one' The human spirit 
thrives on creativity and innovation and this 
exhibition, the first of its kind for the 
National Gallery of Zimbabwe, offers us 
plenty of unusual ideas. Thought up and put 
together by .Stephen Williams. Furniture and 
Furnishings has stimulated artists and 
provokes the viewer. The two large galleries 
in Bulawayo were filled with examples of 
creativity applied to conventional items: the 
quirky, the beautiful, the humourous, the 
poetic and the imaginative — and at the 
same time useful and functional. 

Two chunks of soft-looking chiselled 
sandstone, girded by carved poles, hold up a 
warm wood table top. A rough edged slab 
of pale gleaming marble balances atop a 
single black pillar. A wire creature about 
three feet tall bends and strains to keep your 
door open. Candles flicker in a variety of 
holders made of curving wood, lumpy clay, 
slim wire. A table made of dark wooden 
sleepers and smooth marble with its own 
miniature cast iron stove — an inspirational 
place to write or work. 

Contemplating the range of objects, perhaps 
the best way to indicate the individual 
creativity of the participating artists is to 
single out one item of furniture: the chair. 
There were many examples, one being Life 
Hand Chair by Jeremy Mann in the form of 
a large hand constructed of thin black 
lengths of metal bent and curved into the 
shape of fingers reaching about five feet up 
from the palm. Depending on the cushion 
which was unfortunately not completed in 
time for the exhibition, such a chair could 
provide a safe, enclosed place to curl up 
with a book, almost a room of one's own. 

Brian Williams, known for his sensitive and 
lyrical treatment of wood, gives us a 

Caveman C/ia/r composed of multi-hued, 
.softly-.sculptured and interlocking 
pieces. By the same artist is a witty 
Hunter's Chair — a traditional swivel 
-hair with a back support smoothly shaped 
1 resemble buffalo horms. Brian 
Williams' chairs are always, and 
surprisingly, wonderfully comfortable. 

A tall chair in green metal by sculptor and 
craftsman, Arthur Azevedo, stands serenely. 
Quiet and unassuming, with its simple lines 
and elegant assymetry, it is a pleasure to 
look at and sit in. By contrast. Time Chair 
by Beny Bickle is a flight of imagination 
that looks too delicate for human weight. 
The curving wings and curling frame 
provide the spirit with a vehicle for travel. 

John Knight employs the ordinary, a shovel 
and garden fork, to create a most unusual 
Garden Chair. I can't vouch for the comfort 

(top left) John Knight, Garden Chair 

(middle left) Gracious Nyoni, 
Old Stool 

(bottom left) Brian Williams, 
Caveman Chair 

(top right) Arthur Azevedo, Chair 


ol' this exhibit, not being brave 
enough to try it! The same 
artist also exhibited a wild 
l.if;lii Shower, made with a 
length of bright green 
plaslie hosepipe curling up 
t'roni the floor to end in an 
aluminium shower rose 
containing a light bulb above 
vour head. 

Berry Bickle, Time Chair 

Gracious Nyoni offers a low 

and comfortable Old Stool 

carved from a single, chunk of 

wood — simple, beautiful and 

welcoming — a restful seat for 

the end of a long day. 

The choice is yours. And perhaps 
to light your book or 
conversation a 
companionable lamp, 
Walkiiii; in the Light, a 
gently humourous creation 
in the form of a scarecrow with a straw hat 
for a lampshade by Ras Ian Knife. 

In his introduction to the catalogue, Stephen 
Williams writes: "Good designers enrich 
life in a manner that is culturally and 
environmentally sensitive and make a 
meaningful contribution to the way people 
look at and respond to the world ... Good 
design should excite and stimulate our 
aesthetic sensibilities ..." One of Stephen's 
many talents was that of stimulating both the 
artists and the public. In organising this 
exhibition, he encouraged individuals, 
including painters, architects, a 13 year-old 
schoolgirl, teachers, sculptors, writers and 
craftspeople, who had perhaps not 
previously applied their artistic gifts to 
furniture, and they challenge and reward us 
with their work. Furniture and Furnishings 
will be on show in Harare in September/ 
October and it is certainly an exhibition 
worth seeing. Barbara Murray 

Chrispine Mutsadyanga, 


Fine Arts Students Past and 
Present, August/September, 
National Gallery, Harare 

Walking up 1(1 the exhibition of works by 
students of the Harare Polytechnic in the 
east wing of the National Gallery, you 
cannot help but be captured by Anke 
Bohne's striking sculptured figure, part of a 
mixed media installation. Entitled The 
Mirror, the work consists of the figure and a 
series of textile portraits hung like clothes on 
a rack. For the figure, Bohne's materials are 
metal and wire, plied into packed 
expressiveness through every limb and form 
of the body in its twisted, turning motion. 
This structure is covered in stretched 
stockings in varying neutral tones and hues 
effectively invoking flesh, ending in a pair 
of solid knee-high plaster boots finnly 
planted on the ground. A closer look at the 
sketchbook in the figure's hand indicates 
that we perhaps breeze over people in 
general too fast in life. Written in the 
sketchbook is the instruction: "If you only 
have vour own 2 HANDS look at the textiles/ 
the FACES with somebody together! Touch 
them, turn them over!" Assertive and 
dominating, this piece seems to suggest a 
need to try to understand art. to confront and 
recognise ourselves and others as depicted 
by artists. Much of the other work does not 
however ask any questions nor attempt to 
actively involve the viewer. 

A gentler and quieter piece is Zimbabwe 
Yorufaro by Sam Mulabu, composed of 
entwined wood, metal, wire, mud and hide. 
The wire is worked into organic shapes, 
woven spider webs, snail trails and 
chongololo skeletons, and covered in a layer 
of sandy mud. The merty figure drawn on 
one of the wooden verticals uses the natural 
sculpted hole to achieve a heady lightness. 
The pale animal hide is turned with the soft 
inside out, with just a hint of the hairy coat 
revealed in a fold. 

Chrispine Mulsadyanga's Figure shows a 
sound and balanced composition. The figure 
is weighted on the step-ladder drawn in 
varying widths of lines and angles using 
charcoal, graphite and ball point pen. He 
has worked competently with both the 
background and subject together. 

The ceramic work was a letdown after last 
year's show when we were stunned by the 
workings in clay, the confidence with which 
the medium was handled. The pots this year 
are of an almost elementary standard. 
Boring forms, crudely worked and 
insensitively glazed, which reveal no 
understanding or enthusiasm for the 
material. It seems that last year's students 
were inspired by the work of the visiting 
Maori potter, Wi Taepa, whose free 
inventiveness and robust approach to clay 
was shared in a workshop at the Polytechnic. 
Fvery eftort should be made to expose 
students to fresh, creative ideas in this way. 

Overall the exhibition displayed a good 
technical knowledge of drawing, painting 
and printmaking with an understanding of 
their relative potentials. The painters show 
strong confident brushwork and good use of 
colour. What is needed is some experimen- 
tation and letting go. Myrtle Mallis 

Anke Bohne, The Mirror 

events and 

Following on from the exhibition of work by 
prominent young painters Luis Meque, 
Richard Witikani and George Churu 
Gallery Delta will feature recent sculptures 
by Gerry Dixon. On 5 November there will 
be an unusual show entitled Explorations 
which Will present fragments, writings, 
sketches, paintings and other materials by 
some prominent artists, giving insight into 
their processes. Later in November, Delta 
exhibits paintings and off-the-wall work by 
Berry Bickle. 

The National Gallery in Bulawayo will be 
holding a commemorative Celebration 
for Stephen Williams on his birthday, 
17 November. There will be a limited 
retrospective exhibition of his work drawn 
from private collections in the Bulawayo 
region and activities are planned to reflect the 
multi-faceted approach he took to the 
promotion of the visual arts. A more 
complete retrospective is planned for 1997. 
In October a workshop will be run by visiting 
British painter Maryclare Foa and work by 
George Nene will be shown. November 
and December will feature the 10th VAAB 
Annual Exhibition. 

Sandro's at 17 Duthie Avenue will open in 
early October with a one-person show by 
Paul Wade. Entitled Balancing Act. the 
exhibition will feature among other works a 
group of 16 painted cubes which invites the 
viewer to make his or her own 'painting" or 
"sculpture" by rearranging the cubes in 
whatever order or shape appeals. Sixteen 
cubes offers a possible 2.8 million million 
combinations on just the frontal plane alone! 

From 15 to 30 November Pierre Gallery will 
be showing an exhibition of sculpture by 
Henry Munyaradzi whose work was 
selected along with that of 29 other artists for 
the International Sculpture Biennale in Paris 
this year. Munyaradzi is the only sculptor 
from Africa to have been chosen for this 
prestigious exhibition. Following this in 
December will be installation work by 
Tapfuma Gutsa 

The National Gallery in Harare will be 
showing Furniture and Furnishings from 
mid-September to mid-October. The gallery 
will then close until the opening of the 
annual Heritage Exhibition on a date to be 
announced in early November. ^^ 





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The art magaz-ie from Gallery Delta 

No 10 

Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Gallery magazine: 



Anglo American Corporation Services Limited 



The Rio Tinto Foundation 


Joerg Sorgenicht 




Tanganda Tea Company Limited 








December 1996 

2 Gerry Dixon on site 

by Murray McCartney with notes by the artist 

7 Ishmael Wilfred : Painting the spirits 

by Barbara Murray 

1 2 [lo the Pirate, photographer : an interview 
with Barbara Murray 

20 Reviews of recent woric and forthcoming exhibitions 
and events 

Cover: Gerry Dixon. Para Noire (detail). 1996, 228 x 123 x 22cm, 
wood and grass (photo credit: Barbara Murray) 

Left: Crispen Matekenya, untitled (detail from Blakiston School 
Playground Project) 1996, approx 6 x 2m, wood (photo 
credit: Barbara Murray) 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Muggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination: HPP Studios. Printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. 
Paper: Magno from Graphtec Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, c/o Gallery Delta. 1 10 Livingstone 
Avenue, P.O. Box UA 373 Union Avenue, Harare. Tel: (263-4) 792135 
Fax: c/o (263-4) 753186 e-mail: 

Trying to get to grips with one of the most 
unaccountable of Zimbabwe's artists, 
Ga//ery asl<ed IVIurray McCartney to engage 
Gerry Dixon in conversation. 
The artist has added his own comments. 

Gerry Dix 

"Nineteen xi.xn-two. si.\t\-lhree. on a diet of 
Retsina and slimming pills. Boh an ' I doin ' a 
street cabaret in Athens. Iiim on his mouth- 
organ, me playing on my pith helmet - bam! 
bam! bam! But Bob had to go. I mean, 
there we are. flat broke, and he 's using his 
last coins to buy an ice-cream. An ice- 

Gerry Dixon"s acid indignation isn't 
something you"d like to meet on a dark 
night. But the lightness of touch is never far 
behind: "The next week. I'm in Beograd. and 
what's play in' on the juke-box? Cliff 
Richard! And all these people thinking that 
they're rebels!" 

Which leads, in our roller-coaster 
conversation, to considerations of 
communism, recollections — and they are 
legion — of his antipathy to it. "I've been 
anti- since my father and all his trade 
unionism: sightless leaders, boring 
controllers of life ..." 

Outer sight 

Dixon is 58 now, and looking a lot fitter than 
anyone should look after a history of making 
the 'free life' pretty much an article of his 
existence. Those who would control it are 
either vanquished, pilloried, abandoned, or 
given a wide berth against the day when his 
gentle wrath will light on just the tool to do 
the job: a word, a look, a sculpture. 

To suggest, though, as one Harare critic has 
done, that this makes him the Don Quixote 
of the contemporary art scene, is to miss two 
important points. His ideals may be quite as 
lofty as those of Cervantes' good knight, but 
the villains of his piece are real enough. 
Well, some of them are, at least: poisonous 
vehicle emissions; nuclear weaponry; the 
squander-mongery of space exploration; the 
media manipulation of sound frequencies 
and visual images. Others perhaps owe 
more to the fertility of his imagination than 
the rigour of his analysis. 

More importantly, though, the tilting-at- 
windmills school ignores a long and rough- 

edged history. "There goes Gerry Dixon," 
they seem to imply, "characteristic flap- 
eared cap making him look for ail the world 
like Snoopy mocking the Red Baron." The 
endearing hermit. The iconoclast with a soft 

The soft centre had other beginnings. The 
west London district of Southall — beyond 
the reach of the Underground which hives 
off north and south of it, tracking more 
prosperous realms — had a particular 
character in 1938. The arrow-straight 
streets, fanning off The Broadway like fish 
bones, were surrounded by airports, and 
factories, and RAF Not only 
industrial, but military-industrial as well, a 
strategic target. And a for lad in wartime 
Southall, the sirens and air-raids and 
dashing-for-the-shelters went with the turf. 

■7 grew up in surnnindings of fear." Dixon 
recalls, "but it was more like 1 was watching 
it. I went round collecting bits of bombs. 
and shrapnel, and put them in little boxes. 
The oldies were freaking out. but I don 't 
actually remember any fear." 

Family life was strained, and fractured. 
Mother was hospitalised, sister was sent to 
an orphanage, and Dixon himself to live 
with his grandmother until his father re- 
married when he was twelve. 

"I fought everything. Changed .schools a lot. 
Lived on the streets. Nineteen fifty-two. in 
comes TV. fAost people putting up aerials, 
even if they didn 't have a set — keeping up 
with the I lost my old man to the 
BBC, and I've avoided television all my life. 
Before TV everyone was on the streets in 
London; then — overnight — nothing. 
Police began appearing in the evenings: 
'Shouldn't you be indoors. Sunny'.'' 

Umdon was the biggest city in the world: 
something was going down then. We had a 
strict hierarchy <m the streets, in-built 
policing. Then comes TV. aggression. 
negative newspaper reporting, boys being 
pulled off the street. Nineteen fifty-five, a 
friend gets beaten by the police with a 
hasebtdl bat for no offence. A baseball bat 

... we didn 't even know what baseball was" 

At 16, he started an apprenticeship with the 
engineering firm, AEC. "Wv main thing 
was to avoid compulsory two year's army 
conscription, and you coidd plead deferment 
b\ studying. I did day-release, and passed 
enough engineering e.xams to miss the 
anny." Characteristically, he glosses over 
the skills he learned; it's unlikely that his 
laddish attitude and irreverent time-keeping 
detracted much from his design and drafting 

Away from the factory, life was a cocktail of 
billiard-halls, dog-racing at Wembley twice a 
week and jazz clubs. 

■7 was an 'outer'. If you 're an < niter you 're 
not into the general movie. The suburban 
miters individually went to city centre: we 
were into music." 

Chasing the Trane 

The hard-bop of modem jazz might have 
been scripted for Gerry Dixon and his outer 
pals. Listen to Thelonius Monk: '7 .v(;v, /)/av 
Your own way. Don 'I play what the public 
wants. You play what you want and let the 
public pick up what you are doing — even if 
it does take them 15, 20 years." 

Or Nat Hentoff. on Coltrane: "The deadly 
serious John Coltrane, groping for as many 
possibilities as he can think of and combine 
in each chord that rushes by, performs with 
a hugely emotional 'cry' of desire thai has 
been at the centre of jazz since the first field 

Meanwhile, back at the factory, Dixon was 
stirring the corporate leathers with his views 
— not positive — on the volumes of carbon 
iiionovide that AEC vehicles were going to 
pump into the atmosphere with their new 
line of London buses. The technical director 
had his own opinion: "Dixon. I think you'd 
better go and work somewhere elsi'." 

The somewhere else was Austialia. a long 
way from England's stifling 'dumb'. 
"Melbourne. Height of .■\uslralian 





Gerry Dixon, Para Noire fdetail of the event), 1996, 
228 X 123 X 22cm, wood and grass 

b\r4 f U^ 




uneinployinenl. My dress was out of order. Every job intennew, I 
blew iheir minds." Bui the country occasionally returned the favour, 
by blowing his, lacing a succession of rough-neck adventures in 
deserts and swamps with interludes of insight. 

"7 met a kid who 'd never, at 12 years old. seen anyone else except his 
father Presence? One hundred per cent! Changed my attitude to 
city life forever." 

"/ got into collecting bones. Painting them bright colours. Stringing 
them up around the place." 

1962. The last three months of a long and chequered two-year stay 
were spent, following a bout of agoraphobia, in a Brisbane flat. '7 
was there three months, and didn 't go out once. Started oil painting. 
I'd phone for a ta.xi and tell the driver what paints to buy. and he 'd 
bring them round. Paranoia No 1 — that was a great painting. The 
rest I burned" 

Time to move on. The boat to India, and the dope-fuelled trek west, 
years ahead of the crowd: magic stories shining like jewels in a 
compost of sickness and squalor. 

Back in London, Dixon lived in an old ambulance, and listened to 
John Coltrane until his money ran out. '7 was wrecked. Gone. 

"A friend pulled out an ad in the Evening Standard: Emigrate to 
South Africa. Christmas Eve I go to the office to apply, and New 
Year's Dax I'm there." 


A crow in tlie crow's nest 

"Arriving in South Africa ... it's like being in Britain with a PhD and 
a thousatul pounds a moitth — just for being white!" 

"I go to Jo' burg, because it's inland. I like inland. Got a job 
straightaway: design engineer with Leyland. Then moved into 
advertising. Maintaining an artist's attitude." 

Johannesburg gave way to Cape Town; advertising gave way to 
music. Dixon the autodidact, who a few years previously had 
arranged for a librarian to mail him books at regular intervals during 
an eight month sojourn as a labourer in the Australian desert, now 
explored minimalist music. It was fertile ground for his creative 

David Toop wrote in his recent book. Ocean of Sound: "In the latter 
half of the 1960s, reciprocal motion agitated and enlivened music. 
Miles Davis. Sly Stone. Santana, Cream. La Monte Young. Jimmy 
Hendri.x and Terry Riley all indulged in marathon trance grooves, 
rippling with strange currents, often stretching beyond the limits of 

endurance into boredom, hut hunting 
ecstatic release through repetition." 

In the Cape. Gerry Dixon began creating 
sound composites which he described as "a 
cross between the quality of Bushman drones 
and Zen Buddhist chants ...". it was a short 
step to giving weekly "concerts" of single 
sine-wave music on his frequency generator 

And it was during this time, when his mind 
was focused on the transformative power of 
music, that he had his synaptic encounter 
with the mind of Joseph Beuys. "His Fat 
Chair.' It altered my mind! Artist of the 

Today — one monster Cape Town night- 
club, one move to Zimbabwe, and one 
nervous breakdown later — Dixon's regard 
for the shaman of post-war Germany 
remains undimmed. 

Beuys himself was uneasy about the 
shamanistic pigeon-hole to which he was 
often assigned, and once said. "/ accept it 
onh in the sense that I don 't use shamanism 
to refer to death, but vice versa — through 
shamanism I refer to the fatal character of 
the times we live in. But at the same time I 
also point out that the fatal character of the 
pre.senl can be overcome in the future. The 
future, to my way of thinking, is the 
dimension that contains the point where 
everything begins." 

Gerry Dixon is no stranger to "the fatal 
character of the times we live in": his 
familiarity began in childhood and never 
looked back. Nor is he out of tune with 
Beuys" ontology ... 

Beuys: "...there are no such things as 
unshakeable principles, eveiything is alive 
and in flu.x. ... the only unshakeable 
principle I can think of would he .something 
that is flexible to the nth degree, something 
that is continually chatiging." 

Dixon; "l^ayhe ... I go with the ' maybe' s ... 
I don 't let doubts get in the way!' 

What has all of this got to do with art? Not 
a lot. according to Beuys. who once claimed 
that; ■"/ really don 't have anything to do with 
art — and that is the only way to really 
contribute anything to art. I've always 
wanted to get away from this conception of 
the artist — one who makes drawings just to 
he making drawings — because I don 't want 
to be that." 

But the impulse is there, and one can 
imagine Dixon nodding his head in 
agreement as Beuys continues: ""... it's an 
impulse that is no different from human 
impulses in general. How does someone get 
interested in agriculture'.' I .suppose certain 
experiences are important, as in any other 
field. In the creative field, though, what you 
always .seem to find is some sort of intention 
that reaches out for some basic problem in 
human life, which then becomes afield of 
activity. With me, it 's that certain questions 
— about life, about art, about science — 
interest me, and I feel I can go farthest 
toward answering them by trying to develop 
a language on paper a language to 
stimulate more searching discussion — 
more than just what our present civilization 
represents in terms of .scientific method, 
artistic method, or thought in general. I tty 
to go beyond these things ..." 

How unhealthy can you get? 

In the dusty yard beside his window-less 
house. Gerry Dixon lugs over The Marine 
from Marondera. a wooden figure shaped 
like an inverted tear-drop, and slots it, 
spike-down, into the tree slice which forms 
its base. The Marine looks as if he would 
be happier driven straight into the hard 
brown earth, the more to regain his roots 
and exaggerate his already phenomenal 
unlikeliness, but portability is the 
watchword, two days before he and his 
fellows are relocated to Gallery Delta for an 

Dixon's house isn't actually window-less, 
merely glass-less. "All my work is for 
money!' he remarks, walking through — 
literally through — the French windows, 
but the tone is less than convincing. Do I 
realise, he asks, how much the American 
people will spend on medical aid this year, 
and goes on to give the answer without 
waiting for a reply. He speaks in capital 
U.S DOLLARS. This, I'm told, shakes 
down to the equivalent of ten thousand 

(top) Gerry Dixon, The Marine from 
Marondera, 1996, 106 x 40 x 46cm, 

(above) Gerry Dixon, Hot Seat, 1996, 
42 X 108 X 42cm, wood 

(left) Gerry Dixon, Ends Meet, 1996, 
138 X 104 X 34cm, wood 

(opposite) Gerry Dixon, Timeless, 
1996, 179 x 62 X 34cm, wood 

Zimbabwe dollars a month for every man, woman and child in the 
United States. "How unhealthy can you gel?" 

It's hard to regain a quotidian focus in the face of such astronomic 
arithmetic, and under the arch-browed, cryptic gaze of The Marine 
from Marondera. Who needs windows in this weather, anyway? 

There's a raised stone platform on the land behind Dixon's house, 
nestling inside a cluster of granite boulders like a meditation zone. 
He slept there for several weeks while building the core of his new 
home (who needs walls, either, for that matter?). Lying beneath the 
stars, his mind was probably snagged more than once by the 
intrusive knowledge of what else was kicking around up there in the 
stratosphere. Dixon doesn't — doesn't dare, probably — spin off 
the annual costs of space exploration, but the very thought of zillions 
being spent on a "fruitless search for the meaning of life" is a 
particularly chilling one to him. Not for the first time, his sculptural 
ire and irony turns on NASA. 

A previous response to the mis-spent zillions, exhibited last year, 
was burdened down with the cumbersome title of One for NASA 
(National Aeronautics and Space Administration — where the earth 
is seen as a space station) STOP! (For 100 years). Ends Meet hits 
its target with a deal more elegance. Through an abstracted, arced, 
priapic rocket, an angled wooden spike is driven sideways. The fit is 
cabinet-maker-perfect; the tension between the crystal-sharp spike 
and the fat, lazy, plum-coloured projectile with its cocky little NASA 
logo, lingers like one of Dixon's amplified sine-waves. 

Will it slice even one day off the duration of the space race? It 
doesn't matter. This is not agit-prop, not adolescent defiance, not the 
work of an inky-fingered ban-the-bomb artist. This is irony meeting 
its ironist: once the spike is put in place, the sculpture's work is 

By chance, Dixon lets slip during the exhibition that, yes, after all, 
he probably has done his bit in terms of pointing up the more 
excessive follies of the post-industrial world; that maybe it's time to 
move on. But ... but he's an artist, not a strategist, and it would be a 
foolish punter who'd bet a cent on a Dixon 'maybe'. 

NASA and Medicare aside, his canon remains a refuge for 
serendipity: wood and stone talk to him still, as they ever did. This 
conversation with his materials both reflects and determines the 
geography of his life. Even when the windows are glazed, the inside 
of Dixon's house will never be far from the outside; and even when 
the sky is out of sight, as he sets another pot of coffee on the kitchen 
stove, the tree from which the counter is hewn continues to breathe 

In the past, his material has spoken to him in the tongues of monsters 
and wild beasts. Lions have emerged from his suburban 
undergrowth; leopards have grown out of tree-stumps; elephants, 
even, have visited him and declared, "You're doing fine!" 

Either the muse of the ark has left him, or the imperatives of home- 
making are exerting an uncharacteristic sway; for this latest 
exhibition he has conjured up two remarkable pieces of sculpted 

Hot Seat is chance at its best. One can imagine the artist squatting 
down on this random log during a break from labouring in his yard. 
Something disturbs his rest — an idea? a bird's .song? a chord 
breaking from the loudspeaker? — and the moment has to be 
immortalised: a saddle is seared into the timber where his bum sat, 
and twin markers score the position of his legs. 

A more elegant and resolved tree-transformation is the lofty scarlet- 
timbered throne. Timeless. The dominant colour itself is unnaturally 
Dixon-brash, but is redeemed by the delicate threads of yellow 
bleeding down the natural cracks in the wood. And any thoughts 

that even this specimen is a trifle echt- 
iitilitarian for the outer from Southall. are 
tlismissed by the whimsy of a giant finger 
shding up the side of the chair-back. 

And for those with money to bum. there was 
Para Noire, a thatch-haired scarecrow- 
standing sentinel in the gallery garden on 
opening night. As dusk fell on the 
ceremony. Dixon torched the scarecrow's 
hair and art combined with drama. Half an 
hour later, when the guests had turned their 
attention away from the mask-face, now 
sporting a halo of black, feathery curls, 
drama gave way to magic as the face 
spontaneously ignited and threw flames out 
of its mouth and eye-holes. What was that 
about "All my uork is for money"? 

Two last words on the excessive follies of 
the post-industrial world: Fish Report. 
Exiled to the garden, in all its pink and silver 
grotesquery. this work wasn't allowed to 
sully the gracious interior of Gallery Delta, 
and even some of the artist's most ardent 
fans gave it a brisk and derisive thumbs 

Dixon's response, for all that he affects to 
care little what people think of him. or his 
art. was almost visibly pained. "Bui it's a 
fish." he explained, bewildered that any 
explanation might be necessary, "and it's 
choking. On pollution ..." 

How unhealthy can we get? 

Gerry Dixon, Message from Jupiter, 
1996, 70 X 43 X 18cm, wood 

Artist's notes 

iinivcisity tor one, and certain systems. 

Part one: It was a cold wet hot dry summer 
winter's day when Murray came to interview 
me. It was with some interest that I read his 
article concerning me: artist. Murray being 
well-versed in modern trends seemed the 
ideal writer. Maybe I am too before and after 
for even such a bright mind so Tm down to 
writing a bit on myself to compliment 
Murray's article. Follows my pea-ramble: 

From his conveyed vision I feel like a 'done 
the drug scene". Right? Wrong! And lots of 
70s idiom thought leaves me feeling like a 
southern African version of David Toop (I 
couldn't think of anything worse — right 
now that is). David Toop is Britain's 
esteeming self interest still making up its 
own version — like knighting Cliff Richard 
and not mentioning Cyril Davies. Boring, oh 
so boring. I left and left again to escape this 
snippy collage London media invents of its 
firsts with fir.sts. Nevertheless it's that which 
only puts its money into these interpretations 
and they probably will look a bunch of 
tosspots forever as the 20th century thins into 
the soup. 

In standing against the blistering insistent 
wind of the past and never indulging in 
paddling the river to make it run where it will 
surely run, I feel my sinews twang in 
complaint. I will not give approval to the 
hypocritical fay blindness of the 'I want to be 
in the middlest of shampoo ads'. 

Rattling on is the boniest position left for 
such a spit on two wheels. It's a small fact of 
human reality that if you seek you will find 
BUT the information overload of the sinking 
century leaves floundering cripples, haddock 
to haddock, many having lost the sole that 

As for art — this is art. It's allowing 
thought waves a wig stretch at a canter 
Doesn't do any harm and a bit like curing 
biltong or smoking kippers. 

Part 2. Sweetness 

Nevertheless it was deemed domed and 
dahlias get greenfly so not to worry, god is 
definitely round the next bend. TV was good 
at getting the world channelled though highly 
focused on the benefits of having FREE 
Which briefly means: If you buy one of the 
more than 5000 varieties of shampoo now 
available we will use a small portion of that 
money to sponsor the next show dedicated to 
convincing you that our interests are more in 
your interest than the likes of nasty 
unscrupulous despots like Gerry Dixon. 
"Who the hell does he think he is anyway!" 
Certainly not that person! 

Rare chances at literary exposure give my 
persona its quick burst of buck up ammo to 
de-tensify its disposition. This is only the 
second fime in 40 years past that a possible 
risk of exposure has been offered. So I vent 
on. In-vent-on. Invention. Intervention — 
in lemmingsville. Unbeknown to all is the 
fact that I, what is called, *love* life and all 
that fills it. Though not that which seeks to 
depopulate it or pigeon-hole it, like 

Part 3. Suggestions as to good manners and 
a prayer that the padlock controllers are 
quicker to see they're locked in an air-tight 
compartment with slowly rising poisonous 
substances and slowly reducing life support 
items like fresh air and water. Dredging 
companies working the estuaries of Europe's 
largest rivers are faced with the astronomical 
problem of what to do with the mud dredged 
up. It is so toxic it has to be disposed of 
same as radio active waste. And 
waters are running continuously into our 

So, as we here in Africa have been labelled 
3rd World (as in 3rd class), we could if we 
were nimble over the next 20 - 50 years alter 
the concept to World MKIII version, by not 
following the filthy tracks of the World 
MKI. As the obsession locally is following 
the filthy tracks in as apparent an orderly 
fashion as possible we may not lead the 
world in any way. But thankfully we are 
able to BE with some sweetness in this de- 
tensified part of the human jungle. 

Question: Why is it a person like me. who is 
busting with go and viable life support 
economic ideas, why am I never given 
access to finance (or even a telephone)? 
Answer: I don't know the right people. I 
wasn't bom to the right family. I am honest 
and speak my mind. 

Whatever; it's tedious. So kids. It's not 
what you know. It's who you know. And 
just about all the world's problems come 
under one concept: Culture's coming to 
terms with MODERN. Over & out. 

Gerry Dixon 
October 96 

Most of us assume that 
people in a society share 
a similar conception of 
reality. Art, however, can 
reveal just how different 
individual understanding 
of experience is. 


thie spirits 

Ishmael Wilfred, 
Man and the Cannibal, 
1996, 80 X 59cm, 
PVA on paper 

On casual acquaintance, Ishmael Wilfred is a 
young Zimbabwean who is 27 years old, 
living and working in Harare with his wife 
and one year old baby. The son of 
Malawian parents, his father, a cook on the 
Watson's farm in Banket. Wilfred grew up in 
a common Zimbabwean situation and went 
to the local school. The farmer's wife did 
painting and decorated bowls and table mats, 
and there were paintings on the walls of the 
farmhouse. Young Wilfred became 
interested in drawing and began to copy 
pictures and advertisements from magazines 
and newspapers. Mrs Watson encouraged 
this, giving him paper, pencils and paints. 

On leaving school after passing "O' level. 
Wilfred decided that he wanted to be an 
artist. However his father strongly 
disapproved as he thought that a man could 
not earn a living as a painter. He persuaded 
Wilfred to work as a builder's mate on the 
farm, mixing cement and carrying bricks. 
Not willing to give in so easily. Wilfred 
searched through the telephone directory and 
began writing letters to various galleries in 
Harare. A few replies came back, all 
negative. At last an answer came from the 
National Gallery saying that they had an art 

school and that Wilfred could enrole. So in 
1989. he began painting, drawing and 
printiTiaking at the BAT Workshop under the 
tutelage of Martin van der Spuy. Kate Raath. 
Paul Wado and Phibion Kangai. He 
completed three years, doing mostly figure 
studies, landscapes and street scenes. After 
leaving the BAT. Wilfred got a job doing 
sign-writing for a store in Harare but with 
the onset of ESAP. jobs were cut and he 
found liiiuscif without work. 

Wilfred had all the while continued his own 
painting and printiiuiking. exhibiting at 
Gallery Delta on the annual .Students' and 
Young Artists' show each year and 
sometimes having work accepted for Delta's 
yearly graphics exhibition. He was one of a 
group of young painters who were working 
consistently but who had not yet found their 
own individual voices. It was tough going 
and .sales were few. To add to his difficulties 
during this time, a cancerous tumour began 
to grow in his jaw and he had to undergo 
several operations. The harshness of life 
sent him searching for reasons and he found 
himself turning to African spiritual 
explanations in which he could believe. 

In 199.'i Ishmael Wilfred brought some 
paintings, mostly rural scenes and cityscapes 
but including two very small monoprints, to 
show Derek Huggins at Gallery Delta. 
Despite their size, the two monoprints were 
strong, different from any of his previous 
work in content. On questioning the artist 
about them, a deep belief in the spirit world 
of African culture was uncovered. Knowing 
Wilfred's ability with paint and brush. Derek 
Huggins suggested that he should explore 
these beliefs but in paint rather than print 
and using a larger format. This was a 
turning point for Wilfred who had been 
reticent about expressing such private 
subject matter except in very small format. 
The works began to pour out of him 
developing in content and execution and 
resulting in the 20 paintings .selected for a 
recent three-person exhibition entitled Man. 
Myth and Movement at Gallery Delta. 

In order to iniderstand the ideas expressed in 
Wilfred's work we need to go back to a point 
of crisis in his life. "/ Inul a diviim. Il uyi.v 
sdiiirlhint; llnil I could iiol iiiulcistiiiul. 
Then' is a person, sleepinii. Jreamini; all 
these things around him, had spirits around 
him. somethinfi that is ^oini; to happen. We 

don 'I have the magic to sec what is really 
happening. In the dream, a tooth came out 
and there was a white thing growing inside. 
A dream that something was going to 
happen to me. I dreamed people came to me 
and I had to eat rotten flesh. In the morning 
I was not hungry. / was 25. I started getting 

Frightened and bewildered, it was only later 
that he realised that the nightmare was a 
portent of the tumour which began to form 
in his jaw. At first the tumour was not 
painful but "it would breed at night", 
steadily increasing in size. Eventually 
Wilfred went to the local clinic from where 
he was referred to Parirenyatwa Hospital in 
Harare. A doctor, without explaining that it 
was cancer, told him he should have the 
growth cut out. The operations that 
followed removed the lower jaw and cut into 
Wilfred's lip making talking and eating 
extremely difficult. Each time, the doctors 
told him the growth was completely 
removed, but it would grow again and he 
would have to return to hospital. The inner 
turmoil in which Wilfred found himself 
forced him to question life and fate; why 
such a thing should happen. He turned to his 
grandparents and to books on African culture 
and there he found many explanations for 
the course of his life. At last, just prior to 
his fourth operation, Wilfred consulted a 
witchdoctor who gave him some medicine to 
protect him from witches. He has been in 
remission since that operation. 

Ishmael Wilfred is an artist who lives in a 
world profoundly affected by spirits, where 
the envy and hatred people feel for one 
another take on living forms with dire 
consequences in day-to-day reality. Evil 
spirits (witches) work on people, causing 
them harm, sickness and sometimes death. 
The power of these spirits is great. Their 
witchcraft works in strange and non- 
understandable ways but it is effective — as 
Wilfred says "it works like remote control". 

Through his paintings. Wilfred has found a 
channel for expressing these manifestations 
of evil and the ways they work. It is not a 
defined world but one in which spirits 
become visible through animal or human 
form; a world in which energies, 
phenomena, incarnations and auras occur 
The colours used evoke an African spirit 
world, bright and strong yet ambiguous, 
flesh and yet not-flesh, creating a powerful 
impression of a personal view of reality. 
The paintings are dominated by reds 
(danger, blood, raw flesh), blacks (darkness, 
evil, the unknown, the feared, the night), 
greens and yellows (auras, lights, rotting 
flesh, the unnatural); some forms waver and 
meld, others aggressively attack, loom or 
threaten; the areas or lines of distinction 
between one form or image and another 
suggest possession, unnatural proximities 
and uncertain boundaries. 

Sitting on Doctored Corpses is a small 
predominantly green painting in which a 
hunched figure, intent on its business, glares 
round, with burning red holes for eyes, at the 
viewer. The work depicts an evil spirit come 
to claim a body from its grave. Wilfred 
explains that when a person dies by 
witchcraft, the people responsible for the 
death come back to dig the body out for use. 
But if the family have put some medicine 
from a witchdoctor on the body to keep it 
safe, the killer sticks to the body in the grave 
and cannot move. Then the family can see 
that these are the people who killed their 

At the Mountainside and Man and Cannibal 
reveal another aspect of the African spirit 
world. Cannibals are the embodiment of 
evil. They wait in remote places for people 
to devour, often women looking for wood or 
small children hunting. If cannibals chase 
and grab a child, they take it to their hut and 
keep it quiet with medicine (so that the child 
does not cry or feel hungry) for several days 
before they eat it. Cannibals live 
everywhere, in the countryside and in town. 
"Cannibals are evil spirits who take a 
human body and do evil. They have no 
mercy. You can just feel that this person is 
strange, has got something. You can see in 
the way they talk, the way they look. When 
you are asleep they come. Red means 
something dangerous. The eyes of those 
people, you cannot look at them. He is sort 
of an animal, sort of a person, you cannot 
understand how" 

Two paintings. Rising Spirits and Ghost 
Appears show dead people coming back to 
life in the form of spirits. In African belief, 
all dead people can return as spirits. They 
can help and protect their families. "Some 
spirits can lead you to a better life." But 
more often the spirit returns to haunt a 
family member who has not done his or her 
duty, or who is not living a good life. "The 
evil spirits were evil before they died and 
they come back to frighten people who did 
hann to them during life, or their children or 
grandchildren." People go to the grave and 
pray, make offerings and live well in order to 
keep their ancestors' spirits content. Ghost 
Appears shows "a spirit of a father or 
mother who is angiy that the child didn 7 do 
well .m it comes back to frighten people to 
do what they ought to do. The cross is just 
the sign of the graveyard. I am a Christian 
but the spirits come and go and do what they 
want anyway. If you have an evil spirit, the 
ghost can hurt you. If you have no evil spirit 
in you then the ghost will just pass through. 
The ghost can beat you up if you are evil. If 
you pass through a graveyard at night you 
can see a light coming out." 

Hammerkop Bird is a "bird that can see the 
future, how a person 's future is going to be. 
The figure is a skeleton. If the hammerkop 
sees a person alive who is going to die soon, 
it will go to the home of that person and it 

will whistle three times and they know they 
will die soon. To Africans, a hammerkop is 
not good. Like a vulture. In African beliefs, 
if you see a vulture something bad will 
happen. I have only seen a hammerkop in 
pictures. If you see one something will 
happen in your family, in African families. 
The witchdoctor will use a hammerkop to 
see people 's future'' 

In his painting The Love Snake, Wilfred 
describes his vision of one of the common 
charms used in African society. 
Witchdoctors have many charms and 
medicines that can help a person with 
everyday problems in their social lives, 
careers, family situations and their health. 
These are similar to the number 13, the four- 
leaved clover or rabbit's foot, herbal drinks 
— the lucky or unlucky charms of European 
myth. "Even at work people use charms. If 
someone wants to take someone's job then 
they use charms and the person can vanish 
or be sick. This happens." The love snake 
is a particularly potent charm used by 
women to entice men. "Evety man who 
passes cannot go without talking to her. No 
matter how old or ugly the woman is, the 
men will go with her. even young men. The 
prostitutes use a love snake to get rich. It 
happens." A visit to Mbare market where, 
amongst the mundane vegetables, tobacco, 
clothes and tools, stallholders offer herbs, 
necklaces of bones, skins, skulls and other 
parts of various animals, and other 
medicines, confirms the commonplace use 
of these charms. 

Head on Landscape is Wilfred's impression 
of the scene after a witchcraft killing. 
"When a person gets killed by evil spirits he 
gets his head cut off' and it is just left on the 
landscape. The body has been carried away 
to be used." On being asked whether the 
pale yellowish head is that of a European. 
Wilfred says it is not. It is an African head. 
The colour has been used to create the 
atmosphere rather than approximate reality. 
Europeans are outside this realm. Like most 
religious beliefs, this interpretation of reality 
is only visible to those whose awareness is 
awakened. And apropos this painting, a 
newsclip in today's He redd tells how a man, 
arrested in possession of a human head, led 
police to several 'graves' containing 
dismembered parts of bodies. 

A notable feature of most of Wilfred's work 
is the absence of violence. It is not the 
violent act but rather the fear surrounding 
the object or event that .spills into the 
painting. For this reason some works might 
seem unusual but pleasant to a viewer who 
does not encompass the artist's vision of 
reality. Riding is one such painting showing 
two human figures on what appears to be a 
bicycle travelling through a bright yellow 
background. "Two spirits are riding, you 
may see them as if they are riding on a 
bicycle but they are not on a bicycle, you q 

don 'l know what you see. These are evil 

spirits riding ihruugli the night. Old people. 
This happens. People can ride. We don 7 
have'the magic to see what is really 
happening. You see things and it makes you 
feel it is evil but you don 't understand. It is 
evil spirits around. It is hatred around 

A series of paintings depicts the various 
animals used by witches to carry out their 
evil work. The Hyena is one animal often 
used in witchcraft. "In African belief, if you 
see a hyena, you run away from the place. 
You don 7 see hyena often. They use the 
hyena to ride on. They become one when 
they ride together They ride on you too but 
you are not sure, you think you may be 
dreaming, but he has come to you in the 
form of a spirit. When you wake up you feel 
something has happened." The figure 
behind the red hyena is "the spirit, the owner 
of the hyena." Red has been used to indicate 
danger, the unusual, a creature to be feared. 
This colour is used again in The Red Horse: 
Here the animal is trapped, it has been 
caught by witchcraft. "They have caught it 
so they can ride on it, it is a horse but not a 
horse. In African culture when you see 
something you have not seen before, a red 
horse, then you htow it is something 
strange, sotne witchcraft is happening." 

In Black Head. Red Horse again we are 
shown the witch, the owner, the evil spirit 
ihat looks like a person, and the horse. The 
background is the land. The horse is flying. 
The circles around the head and horse 
indicate magic objects tied on. 

Ishmael Wilfred, The Hammerkop, 1996, 28 x 32cm, PVA on paper 

In The Battle with its frenetic swirls of reds 
and dark blues. Wilfred paints his 
impression of evil spirits fighting each other 
"People trying to get their rights, people 
fighting, to be a leader, they just fight even 
tlunigh it is something you cannot fight for 
You see people of the same religion fighting. 
Instead of talking together they are fighting. 
Evil fighting evil. They are even animals, 
birds, just fighting." It is a world beyond 
control, one which a person must accept and 
try to avoid if possible. 

About Selfportrail after Operation Wilfred 
says: "The operations were very painful. I 
lost a lot of blood. I had gone through hard 
times. After the fourth operation, I had 
consulted the witchdoctor who said this time 
I will be okay. He told me a witch had made 
me eat .something to make it carry on 
growing. He said that if a persim is sick the 
enemies come and bring something evil and 
the person will always get sick again. The 
witchdoctor gave me some medicine to keep 
the evil away. Because of my dreams it may 
he someone doing some evil to me. 
Witchdoctors can help you fight the evil 
spirits or they can give you evil spirits. 
Western medicine is practical. If there is no 
African disease, no witchcraft, then the 
1 Q Western medicine can help ytnt. Sometimes 
a sickness is just sickness and then Western 

Ishmael Wilfred, The Love Snake, 1996, 28 x 32cm, PVA on paper 

Ishmael Wilfred, Black Head, Red Horse, 1996, 
58 X 38cm, PVA on paper 

Ishmael Wilfred, The Battle, 1996, 63 x 45cm, PVA on paper 

medicine can heal you. If there is witchcraft 
then only a witchdoctor can cure you, if 
their medicines are strong enough. If I see 
something happening that I don V 
understand then I go and tell a witchdoctor 
and they advise me what to do. Cancer has 
changed my life. People don 't recognise me 
now. They ask why I have changed and I 
say it is just part of life." 

Through his paintings, Wilfred wants 
"people to understand that this is really 
happening to African people. I grew up in a 
Christian family who explained evil as 
caused by Satan. I didn 't really believe that. 
When I started to have problems I asked my 
grandparents and they explained about 
witchcraft. My beliefs are Shona because I 
have grown up here. But the belief in the 
evil spirits and witchcraft is in every African 
culture. Witchcraft is witchcraft, it doesn 't 
matter if it is Malawian or Shona. 
Witchcraft works, it doesn 't matter what 
tribe you are. If someone wants to make me 
sick he takes magic and he knows this road 
that I use everyday. He talks to the 
medicine and says if that one passes let him 
be affected. Other people can pass and 
nothing happens to them. But if the chosen 
one passes the witchcraft will work on him. 
I don 't know how it works but it works." 

Wilfred refers to books on African culture 
"because then I can read what has really 

happened to other people but seeing is 
believing. I have seen some very strange 
things. One night, after midnight. I woke up 
and I heard someone sweeping. I looked out 
the window and in the neighbour's garden 
there was an old woman in a black gown. 
She was sweeping. She wasn 't moving, just 
sweeping ancf sweeping. And I looked 
closely to see if I was dreaming or if it was 
real, and definitely I was not dreaming. It 
really happened. It is part of witchcraft. 
The next morning my mother told me that 
there had been afiineral down the road. So 
something was happening, even if people 
don 't believe. That woman is still there. 
When I see her I am afraid, just the way she 
looks at me. You never know who hates you. 
It is very strong. A lot of people hate. There 
is no reason. Sometimes you have to leave 
because you know some evil thing will be 
coming. Sometimes something pushes you to 
do something that you shouldn 't do. If you 
get in fights, get hurt, it is evil spirits 
pushing you. God can help. If you listen to 
others and you go to church you can avoid 
trouble. In African culture, if you don 't 
listen to the elders you get into trouble. The 
elders have got a lot of experience and they 
are trying to help you. Even the bible says 
listen to your elders and your days will be 
long. If you don 't listen your days will be 
cut short." 

Ishmael Wilfred uses PVA on paper. He 

works quickly and after some hours he 
comes back to it. Oil takes too long to dry 
and the mixing of wet PVA gives the effects 
he seeks. He does a small sketch sometimes 
but often he says he sees "an image in the 
environment, floorboards, the clouds. 
Wherever I step I see images for art. I walk 
art, talk art. eat art and live art." 

"Somebody asked me: If I buy the painting 
is the painting going to affect me? My 
paintings cannot harm you. It is only the 
artist's impression. My work is a way of 
expressing my feelings and beliefs about 

"Paintings are an expression of myself. 
Paintings are an explanation of my life. 
Perhaps in the future I will make paintings 
on other subjects. Now I feel I must paint 
this. People paint in different ways and 
everybody has got his or her own feeling on 
what he or she is doing in the painting. A 
person may be painting his experience, or 
the community in which he lives. Some 
people paint their surroundings and some 
people paint what 's happening. I paint 
because I want to pass a message on to 
people about something that they don 't know. 
So that they get to know what is happening 
in the world. These paintings are a warning 
about the evil spirits. That they are really 
there and thev really work" 


During his recent retrospective 
exhibition at Gallery Delta, 
llo Battigelli spoke about his life 
and work 

llo Battigelli, aged 
10, working in his 
uncle's studio 

(opposite page) 
Vecia with her birds 
and home, S. 
Daniele, Friuli, 1962 

BM: llo, tell me about starting photography 
when you were 8 years old. 

IB: It was not of my own will, to start with, 
because my father had a brother who used to 
be a photographer He opened up his own 
studio in 1910 in Italy. He made also his 
own camera. He came for summer to my 
town and saw this little chap, very alive, and 
said to my father, "Can I get your son, llo, 
to come to me. I will send him to school and 
then I will teach him photography. He can 
be my helper." So my father. I don't know, 
he was very happy to get rid of me because 1 
was a mischief 1 already had three, four 
brothers and sisters, in fact we ended up 
with 10 brothers and sisters. So my father 
gave "Ye.'i" to my uncle, then 1 travelled by 
train one night and 1 got to Santa Margarita 
in the afternoon. My uncle called his wife 
right away. "Can you go and buy him a new 
pair of shoes. That is the first thing and 
next morning you go to school." And then 
he started to teach me a few things. First of 
all it was cleaning the darkroom, dusting 
things and helping him. When he used to go 
around to take photographs, I carried the 
tripod. The camera was an 8 x 10 with glass 
plates and everything was heavy for him — 
1 O those days everything was on foot, not 
bicycling and cars. 

BM: So when did you begin to take 

IB: I used to go early to the studio to clean 
up and one morning somebody came in to 
have a passport picture taken and my uncle 
was not there. 1 was by myself. I must have 
been about 10 or 1 1 or so, and so I said "K-v- 
y-yes I'll do it." So, 1 remember the face of 
the man laughing and 1 realised he must have 
been so surprised at this little fellow, because 
I never grew too much, a piccolino. He said, 
"Fine." So we went to the studio. It was a 
huge place about 10 metres by 15 with glass 
on lop and glass on the sides. We didn't 
have electricity in the studio but daylight, 
and curtains on top that we used to move 
according to the place where we wanted the 
effect. So that's why we seem to always 
have, in those days, the beautiful soft 
photographs with a little bit stronger light on 
one side or the other. Those were little tricks 
in those days. So you need not only know 
how to click the camera, you must have 
something inside. You are born lo be a poet. 
So then I did the photo. 

BM: Had you never used a camera before 

IB: I used only to look at it. That was the 

very first time. Well I was watching very 
carefully all he did. 

BM: Were you interested in photography 
from the very beginning? 

IB: No, 1 was not interested. I was 
supposed to listen and ask questions. A 
little boy. 8. 9 interested in photography? 
He wants to play. Heh. heh. heh. And of 
course inside myself I also thought if I don't 
listen, if I don't obey, he will send me back 
to my family. 1 was a little captive in the 
palm of his hand you see. Anyhow I'd 
passed okay, more or less okay, so to print it 
is to see it. So then my uncle was very 
happy and he says to me, "Fine I like the 
enterprise of your own and from tomorrow I 
will teach you all the things." 

So we started and everytime some studio 
photograph was to be done he used to come 
to sit in the comer and watch. You know, in 
those days, it was a matter of five or six or 
seven, eight seconds of exposure and you 
used to move the backdrops to make the 
picture. We had an album in the studio with 
copies of the photographs we used to do. 
When a customer came in wc opened the 
album and asked, "Which one would you 
like lo have'.'" So one morning, this young 


f^. W "i 

T " 






^4 > 


lady came in and she says. "/ want a studio 
photograph." And I said, "III I'll do it." 
Then she starts laughing and only many 
years later I tried to realise how she was so 
surprised to see a little chap saying very 
proudly, "I'lii going to do it." She must have 
been 20, 1 don't know. So then she turned 
the pages of the album and, my goodness, 
she took up a decollete. In those days there 
were a lot of pictures of ladies with naked 
shoulders, soft, turning one side. And she 
picked one with a very low decollete and a 
veil. I looked and I start blushing, before I 
even started 1 start blushing! I says to 
myself, "How in the hell can I take a picture 
of this young lady with naked, naked ... 
impossible.'" Well anyhow 1 went to the 
darkroom and with trembling hands I loaded 
the films, the plates, and then I put her onto 
the seat and then, still my trembling hands, I 
set the little veil around her shoulders, not 
too high, not too low, and I could see her 
eyes full of great fun. Anyhow I did the 
photograph. She collected. She was most 
happy. My uncle was very happy and he 
says, "From today you are allowed to take 
portraits but be veiy careful when you deal 
with ladies!" 

During the day we used to do lots of 
commercial work. We used to go round, 
take pictures of buildings etchetera. He 
taught me how to set the camera and how to 
move to get the straight line, all the tricks in 
photography that you have to do. And we 
used to carry, to do landscape, a branch of a 
tree with leaves to give a foreground. And 
he was so kind, he always taught me as 
much as he could. From that time I started 
to do other things, weddings etchetera. I 
used to go to the garden to photograph the 
children. By then I loved it and my uncle 
used to push me. Any magazines, he used to 
show to me pictures, what is good, what is 
bad, you know. I remember all the things he 
taught me, like a father to a boy. 

Then of course, after the war of Abyssinia, 
Italy was flooded with taxes and there was a 
moment of crisis. So my uncle had to close 
the studio. He sold the studio to somebody 
else because he couldn't make it and I went 
to iTiy native town again. I was then about 
15, 16. This man opened a studio but he had 
to report to the army, they call you. So he 
spotted me and he asked, and officially I 
opened the studio on his behalf. I used to do 
all the work. This photograph (Vecia with 
her birds and home) is my town. You can 
read, you can play music, you can play 
violin, or the piano, you can tell stories. And 
that is my life, every stone. This doesn't 
exist anymore, the earthquake destroyed 
everything. Unfortunately beauty has 
always been connected with poverty. 
Because, often people, they have nothing 
more than to be able to make the best of the 
little things that they have, the simple things. 
So there is so much of life, to put into life, 
I 4 love. 

Then my father went to Eritrea, to Africa, 
and he called us to join him. So with my 
mother and my brothers we went to Africa. 
It was very tough in Eritrea but I found work 
with a firm that hud connections with the 
newspaper and started to be trained in taking 
pictures for publicity and sport and news. 1 
enjoyed it very much and whatever it was I 
did my best and I learned because I wanted 
to learn. 

Then of course I used to do freelance also 
for the newspaper with a bicycle and a 
camera. You have to carry two lights and a 
stand and 20 metres of wire and go to the 
party and hold the lights and take pictures. 
When 1 think of those days you know it's 
amazing, how I did it. I had so much 
enthusiasm. Imagine, on a bicycle, the 
camera, a stand, two lights, the wire and a 
tripod! We were in Asmara, a big city. 
Whenever they had functions we went. I 
remember a day I went to a wedding and I 
went to the wrong church. I waited for the 
bride and groom. We had the monks there 
and they were all my friends, so they phoned 
to the other cathedral and the wedding was 
there so I got on the bicycle, with my lights, 
my tripod, my stuff and when I got to the 
other cathedral they were already coming 
down the steps! So what to do? So I said, 
"Fermi, fermi momento!" I called the monk 
in the church and I said, "What if I do so and 
so and so? We got to take at least one 
picture while you give communion." He was 
very amused so he called everybody back to 
the church. He put on the paramenti of the 
priest. He called them to the altar and I took 
a picture while they were having 
communion. Heh heh heh. Everybody was 
happy. Those things I used to do and they 
obliged. Set the lights in the church with the 
family waiting outside etchetera. And then I 
laugh because whenever you go, you as 
photographer, you can move everywhere. 
They don't say don't move. You move 
because you're looking for a spot. So I used 
to observe what they do, what they did, the 
furniture, the ambiente. That was very 
interesting and I love it. 

BM: How do you choose your spot? What 
sort of things do you think of? 

IB: Well, to be true, having had my uncle so 
much teaching me, now to choose the proper 
comers, to avoid the wrong backgrounds, 
wrong lightings, it comes natural to me. So, 
while I was there, the first thing I did, even 
while I was thinking, I was already looking 
where I could set my people, how I could do 
it, how much I had to keep to give exposure, 
and those things they come to you, but there 
must have been with me a great desire to 
learn. You know, because it is within me. 
Always if somebody cross the road in ten 
seconds, I like to cross the road in five 
seconds. That has been always my way. 
When you read books etchetera. you read 
about people doing great things, and I said, 
"/ can do it better than him" Not modest 

I'm afraid. If I was modest I wouldn't have 
been here now. I would be still serving, 
moving things in the studio. So that is it. 

And there of course the war came, and it was 
not easy. Well in anycase, to be short, when 
the war was over we were prisoners 
officially. Then the English came and it 
doesn't matter where you are, it was very 
bad. There was no work. I did all sorts of 
things to survive. Then they opened up 
digging for oil in Saudi Arabia and they 
needed manpower to do it. The Americans 
made an agreement with the British and 
about 3000 of us, still prisoners, all in one 
box, went to Saudi Arabia. We had very 
little pay, very cheap money, we lived under 
the tents. So that's how I ended up in 

BM: And you had your camera with you? 

IB: No, I did not have a camera but I had 
been hired as a photographer They took 
four photographers. They had 3000 and 
what they wanted they took and the rest they 
sent them back. Like you buy a bag of 
potatoes, you take the good potatoes. So we 
went there, out of four we remained two of 
us. I had all this experience and they put me 
into the laboratory and I started work with 
four, five cameras, speed graphics and 
flashes etchetera, and of course. I knew my 
job so they put me in the engineering 

And then I had a boss who was American. 
One day he came with a special job and tells 
me how to do it. And I says, "I'm sorry, it's 
not working this way. This is how to do it 
because... because... because..." And he 
says, '7 am your boss. I tell you how to do 
it." I said, "Yes, sir!" So I went to the 
darkroom. I did it and it was worse. I did it 
worse. And he was very happy. A week 
later I was summoned to the head office and 
all my 16 x 20 pictures on the table. So, the 
director look at me and he says. "Did you 
print these'.'" I said. "Yes." He says, "They 
are all wrong." I said, "Yes I know!' He 
says, "What do you mean you know?" I 
says. "Yes I know. It is wrong here, wrong 
here and wrong there." He looks at me with 
a stone face and says. "Why did you do it?" 
"Because my boss, Mr so-and-so, when I 
told him that it was wrong to do it this way, 
he told me that he was my boss and to do as 
he said." So next thing the boss was fired 
and I became supervisor. Then I started to 
travel. Do you have plenty? 


Of tape? Yes I have lots. 

IB: Good. Heh heh heh. Because I can talk 
until 1 2 o' clock tomorrow. So then I 
became somebody because before we were 
kept down. Anyhow I tried to do tny, 
also because I liked it. If the work is to be 
done, you check each piece each time and if 
there is mistake you do it again. And not to 
take an hour if vou can do it in half an hour. 

So I think they did appreciate and they 
allowed me a few liberties sometimes. But 1 
wanted to be able to move from one camp to 
another. We had a camp at the beach with 
an iron belt around. You couldn't move and 
if you move out of it you must have 
permission because the Arabs didn't want 
any interference in the towns. You were not 
allowed to go. So I said, "My goodness. I 
want to take pictures." Because I felt it was 
the first time it was possible in Arabia so I 
must make some photographs. What can 
you do? What can you do' 

Then one day I said, "Took, I get 
perinission" And I went to see the manager, 
the president of the company in the other 
settlement, and when I got there he wasn't 
there. His wife says to me, "He is in a 
meeting so why not wait?" When he came 
he found me playing with his children on the 
floor So I greeted him and I said, "My 
goodness, you have rn'o lovely children and 
I would like to take some pictures of them." 
So he was very happy and he said, "Yes, why 
not?" "But," I said, "/ haven 't got the 
materials I need'' And he says, "We 'II get it 
from Cairo" and a week later the paper 
arrived. I did the photographs. He was very 
happy. So he gave me official freedom to 
do things openly within the camp. 

BM: This one, Ilo, was this in the camp in 

IB: Yes. I was there for eight years. That is 
my studio. 

BM: Why the 'Pirate' Ilo? 

IB: You know, when I had the place made 
into a darkroom. I said. "/ must get a name. 
'Ilo Balligelli. photographer' sounds very 
big. Or 'Ilo Baltigelli and Son '. like 
Antonio and Sons." I says, "I'm not very 
big, I've no son." So then we heard of a 
story, in the bay near the camp, according to 
legend, one of the last pirates came there. 
The pirate is a boat with six or ten men that 
travel along the coast and when they see a 
village they anchor, they go to the village, 
they try to steal what they can, they go 
away. So I said, "Ha. a pirate" because 
even the stories told, all are embellished. 
"Lovely" 1 said, "Tomorrow morning I'm 
going to be Ilo the Pirate.'" 

So I build up the story. I have the flag, the 
sign, etcheiera and everything came about. 
This caught, it was a curiosity, a fable. If 
you are a good clown, they accept you as a 
clown. And my photography was good. 
Matter of fact, there was an American 
Commodore, he called me. So we went 
there to his ship and the manager says, "The 
Commodore wants you to take a picture." 
And I says, "'Why?" "Because back in New 
York at the base, he heard several times 
from sailors that there was a pirate who 
used to take photographs, very beautiful. So 
he says I want to meet this pirate and see 

what face he has and I want my picture 
taken by him so when I go hack to the base I 
can sax Ilo the Pirate look my photograph." 
So he invited me to the ship for supper. I 
went as usual with my ring, my scarf, my 
shiil with all cuts around and the boots. I 
went by car to the harbour and there was a 
speed boat with a tlag and one lieutenant 
waiting for me. He salutes. I stood next to 
the flag and we drove to the ship and then up 
the ladder and at the top there was the 
commander and others waiting, all standing 
to attention. Salute! So I'm a bit of an 
actor, I cannot help it. I love it. Heh heh 
heh heh heh. I love it, I always love it. So 
he introduced me to each officer Each one 
stood at attention, hand salute. And I 
enjoyed it. 1 made it very slow so it lasted as 
long as possible. Then he took me around to 
show me all the boat, the engines etcheiera 
and we went down to the quarters for 
supper. ."Xnd then I said, "/ 
would like to take a 
photograph." I took my camera 
because if you tell stories but 
don't take the picture, people te 
you you say balony. So I always 
took my camera to prove. And 
then after supper, we go back to the \ 
tent and I said, "One hour ago I 
shake hands with the officers and iun\ 
I'm back to my little tent." 

BM: What is this one. Ilo? 

IB: That is inside my studio. That was 
the flag, that was the sign, all the picture: 
on the door, the same as now. 

BM: And did you write this: "A robber 
perhaps. A beggar? neverV 

IB: Yes, that was my motto. Because there 
we were second-class people. Because we 
lost the war we were treated, "You shut up! 
You lost the war." And I said, "Not me. I 
never lost the war." So I invented few 
slogans. I never did beg in my life. 

BM: And. "Photography is like 
poeliy. but poets we must also 
be." Did you also write that? 

IB: Yes. You know you have 
plenty of time to dream. Eight 
years to dream, in the desert, with 
nothing and the mind: doo doo da 
doo da doo. Everybody has only 
one life to live and I lived under a 
blinking tent. 

So then I want to take pictures of 
Arabia. How to go to the villages? 
How to be allowed to travel without 
being stopped? Then I thought. "Why 
not go to the emir?" So I went to the 
emir. I greeted him, a little bit in Arabic, a 
little bit in Italian, so they think I'm 
bilingual you know, heh heh. And then I 
said, "/ know you have children." "Yes'' 
"Oh I would like to photograph them." So I 

(above) Outside his studio, Saudi 

(below) Inside his studio, Saudi i c 


(above) Mother and Child in Saudi Desert, 1947 

(top right) A Camel Trio, 1948 

(middle right) Drying Fish in the Sun, Bosphorus, Turkey, 1954 

(bottom right) Pearl Diver, Persian Gulf, 1950 


photographed the children and I gave him the 
pictures. So slowly, slowly we becaine 
friends. We used to hold hands together and 
have tea together. Then I said, '7 know it is 
not easy but is there some way I could move 
sometime to lake photographs?" So he told 
me to meet such-and-such a man and I 
started to move around because I had the 
silent 'okay' of the emir. A lot of the 
pictures 1 could never get to do otheiAvise. 
This one we saw the camels from a distance 
and we followed and I took about 1 2 photos 
across the sand dunes, always the camels. 

BM: Ilo, the photo of the mother with the 
baby, the eyes, how did you manage to take 

IB: In Arabia, already with the blessing of 
the emir, we were travelling from A to B in 
the desert. There, there are maybe 
sometimes one hundred kilometres when 
there is not a soul, just sand, then maybe 
some few Bedouins, two, three tents, women 
around, a water well. We saw this group of 
women. Bedouin, with no man. And I asked 
the driver to stop. He says, "Don 't be mad." 
I says, "I'm not mad. I just i\alk." So 1 start 
walking slowly, slowly, slowly, and then all 
the women turned to me to see what 1 was 
doing. In the meantime I saw this woman 
with the child and my heart stopped. I said, 
"Look at that." A woman, a child, is 
eternally like the Virgin Mary with the child, 
like every mother under the sun. It is the 
same thing, the same thought, the same love, 
the same condition and more because this is 
very impossible to photograph, a Bedouin 
woman with a child. So I come close, very 
close. So I say a few things and then I click 
few times and I got a beautiful photo. 

In Arabia I fell on the springtime of my 
photographic life, because it was forbidden. 
Everywhere else you can lake pictures but 
not there. 

And some American wanted to buy some 
Arabian horses and he came and says 1 must 
take some pictures. So 1 went with him into 
many palaces etchetera. Really otherwise it 
was impossible to be a guest of an emir in a 
palace then. That is the assistant to the emir 
of the place where we went to photograph 
the horses, so there we were official guests. 
That is the palace where he lives. It was 
such a magnificent place, gold, silver. But 1 
didn't dare to take a photograph. The emir 
was also the Minister of Justice, very fair, 
but if things happened, the first thing he did 
he pulled out his sword and "tok" and the 
head rolled down. That is what we heard. 
Whether it is true or not 1 don't know but 
that is the story. 1 went to the emir and had tea with 
him, I met people from different places and 
they would invite me because they knew I 
was a friend of the emir. So 1 went to 
dilferent towns and saw different people. 
Then I was given $10 a day to travel around 

and take photographs and I began to save. I 
had a friend from Palestine. He was a 
refugee who worked with me and next I 
said. "/ wani to go to the Holy Land." So 
when I arrived in Jerusalem the whole 
family of this Palestinian was waiting for 
me. They gave me a welcome. They took 
me all over the holy places. They told me 
all the stories and I took hundreds of photos. 
1 met different people. 1 was one day near 
the stone, the Holy Sepulchre, and I looked 
through and I saw two black eyes. "My 
goodness," I says, "What black eyes!" The 
friend says, "Come I introduce you." And 
she was an Armenian lady who had come 
for the festivities and we start talking and 
she says she has come from Syria. And I 
said, "/ shall come and see you." And to 
keep that promise then 1 start travelling and 
1 met her When she took me to her house, 
she says to me, "Because there are the 
family" etchetera, "we introduce you as a 
monk from the Holy Land" So I got 
dresssed up and everything and when 1 got 
there, the mother came to open the door and 
she addressed me as "Father" and she kissed 
my hand, and the girl with laughing eyes 
there behind. We went upstairs for sweet 
drinks and cakes, etchetera. and they were 
asking questions about the Holy Land and I 
made a lovely lecture. All the children, 1 
blessed them, put my hand, all the ladies 
kissed my hand... heh heh heh heh. So the 
mother says, "You better take this reverendo. 
this Father to the monasteiy on top of the 
hill that is veiy famous." So next morning, 
there was the girl and the driver and the 
chaperone. the brother of the girl. Off we 
went, tooo tooo tooo, up to the hill and I 
could move around and took lovely pictures. 
And in this beautiful place, so romantic. 1 
promised the girl, "'/ will marry you." Then 
a lot of other things happened, here and 
there, and a year later I was in Italy, rny 
brother from Genoa phoned me and he says, 
"What have you done?" I says, "Nothing." 
"There is a man here, six feet tall, looking 
for you, says you promised to marry his 
sister." He says, "l\4y goodness, come!" So I 
went straight to Genoa. We went to the 
highest, richest hotel in Genoa. There is this 
man, six feet tall, with a white coat. He 
looks at me, from top to bottom, and he 
says, "Are you llo?" I says, "Yes" looking 
up. Says. "You promised to marry my 
sister." I said. "Yes, I- 1 - 1 will marry her." 
Heh heh heh. I says, "/ am going around the 
world. When I come back etchetera " I 
said, "I'm going to write to her She has to 
bring me children, to work, to stay in the 
shop, all these things, to cook etchetera, 
etcherera," So eventually I never heard 
anymore. Thank goodness. 

So all these things they lead you. Whenever 
you go. you meet somebody, you go some 
place and take some time. There is always a 
human touch for everything 1 do and 1 

BM: llo. are your photos like inemories. 

stories for you? ' 

IB: Well, each one is a story. There is one 
taken on the Bosphorus. We took the bus to 
go to the ocean. When we got there I saw 
beautiful mosques reflected in the water, 
beautiful landscapes which if you walk on 
the ground you don't see but from the top of 
the bus you see. So then 1 saw a sign 
""Forbidden to go to the top. Forbidden to 
take photographs." So, thank you very 
much, that is the place I must go! So with 
my camera hidden in my jacket I go. When 
I got to the top of the hill the only thing, 
looking down, was an iron gate which they 
opened to let the ships go through. That was 
all. So then I came back without even 
taking pictures because it doesn't mean a 

BM: What is it about something that makes 
you want to take a photograph? 

IB: Something photographically, something 
beautiful, composition, novelty, something 
that you don't encounter every moment. It 
is only by walking around, you see lovely 
landscapes, but you have a foreground. On 
the trip back from the Bosphorus 1 told the 
driver. "You go. I come by myself." 
Everybody left. They thought I was crazy. 
Maybe I was, and then I start walking back. 
By walking back, the things that I have seen, 
the photographs 1 took! One of those is the 
men mending nets, all the lovely things that 
you don't see from the bus. So I arrived in 
the evening back in Constantinople. I didn't 
take the photo on top of the hill because 
there was nothing catching my attention, my 
love. When 1 see .something unusual and 
beautiful I feel trembling inside and that is , 
one of those things. 

The girl with the fish. That was in Turkey, 
on the Bosphorus. 

BM: 1 notice that a lot of your photos are of 
very pretty girls. 

IB: Well, beauty is beauty. Beauty is 
everywhere. Nature made them like that, 
it's not my fault. Heh heh. Ahh! oh yes! 
But my goodness, it stank fish so much. 
She must have been young. I asked her. 
because they were carrying fish. I asked her 
to come. 1 put her here, next to the fish and 
1 moved the hand here. Then 1 bring the fish 
and I put it and click. 

BM: So that is one of the few posed 

IB: Yes. The pearl diver is also composed. 
You go out in the boat to watch. The oysters 
are in the bottom, where you see the bubbles 
coming up. They go down with the net. one, 
two, three, they go down for four minutes! 
When we reached the shallow water I asked 
the man to go on his knees and got this 
photograph. It is beautiful, the eyes and the 

Panini and Laughter in the Street. Rome 1948 

Story of Hands, Albany, Georgia, USA, 1954 

wK^ ^ 'tJ^wyH 

n^V ^^^1 ^HwS^'W T 




Anyway then I travel again. I had 100 
photographs of Arabia which 1 used to 
display in the foyers of the hotels. In those 
days nobody knew about Arabia, so it was a 
novelty. I gave these exhibitions and I never 
charged a penny. So people used to come to 
me and say. "V^'hy don 7 you charge?" And 1 
said, "/ have $10 dollars a day which I saved 
in Arabia and then I like to meet people" 
So very often they say, "Come to my liome 
and slay few days." You enter each family. 
You see how they live, what they eat, how 
they dress. It's going not just like a tourist 
boom boom boom, first places then going 
back home. I still have people who write to 
me after 30. 40 years, friends. 

BM: There is a lovely photograph of some 
girls at a fountain. 

IB: Well. Italy. 1948. just a few years after 
the war. Rome was in shambles. Many 
things were not yet restored. I was walking 
around trying to get some candid shots, 
something alive, something which had a 
story but as I say every time you point a 
camera either they pose or they run away. 

There was a lack of everything. And when I 
saw there were plenty of these places selling 
bread and things, it attracted me very much 
because I was not used to see this in a place 
like Rome. These two women talking, one 
to the other, with the foot resting, and I 
waited and waited, when all at once this one 
starts walking away. She noticed that I was 
pointing the camera so she says .something. 
The other one was laughing. Even there you 
can write stories — the spagetti, the box, the 
shoe, this gives you the time, the 40s, the 
hair, everything. That is the beauty which 
photography gives you that no other art can 
do. With painting you can put, change 
places, change something to resolve feeling 
but a photograph is there. 

Then I went to America, travelling with my 
1 Q photographs of Arabia. In New York, I 
wanted to show a little man, cold, with 

nothing and I waited and I waited. I used to 
sit. I was waiting to get some life. People 
were passing but I didn't want them. You've 
got to wait until the right moment comes. 
People think it's easy, that you just go click. 
Your eye does not only look once. It goes 
there and there and comes back. 

One night it was cold, snow, I went to the 
main underground station where it was nice 
and hot. air conditioned. In that place was a 
playing machine, you put a coin and they 
play music. So I was there eating my 
sandwich and getting warm and I saw people 
coming in. all Italians, and they used to put 
coins in and get all Italian records, 
sometimes crying. This old man after 
listening to these songs. I asked him. "Where 
you from?" and he told me and I said. "Have 
you been?" and he said. "/ haven 't been to 
Italy for three years and I can 't get enough 
money to pay for my journey'' These stories 
they come always from the heart. You know 
that is really life. I like to talk to people and 
you hear from everybody something and 
because I ask a respectful question the 
answer is true. 

Anyhow then it was Christmas and you 
know I had this little Arabian cap, like the 
Arabs wear, and with the little beard 
etchetera. On the 2.^rd 1 phoned to a friend 
of mine used to be a colonel of the marines 
in Saudi Arabia. Nice people. So he says, 
" You 're mad you will never spend Christmas 
in New York in the cold with $10 a day. Get 
on the bus and come here." So I got on the 
bus travelled for three days to Albany, 
Georgia. He used to be in charge of a 
marines' depot. So when I arrived there, 
there were officers moving, a whole crowd 
waiting expecting Ilo the Pirate, come from 
Arabia, a friend of the colonel, such a 
welcome. I gave some exhibitions of the 
photographs and some talks. One day he 
said. "/ have arranged an art evening for 
you, prepare with all your paraphenalia and 
Xdur pictures." It was a big house with 
bricks, like Gone with the Wind, all the 

ladies dressed up. They gave me champagne 
and spotlight. Each photo I said what it was 
but as people didn't know you can 
embellish. Heh heh heh heh. So here was 
more champagne and more pictures and I 
was the hero of the night. I felt I was one of 
the actors of Gone with the Wind. I always 
talked myself into it. 

That one of the hands, that was taken in 
Georgia. I always walk, and I saw this old 
lady, in one place, far away. As soon as I 
saw her. rightaway in my mind, there was a 
set. a composition that 1 wanted to do. So 
then I came very slowly, watching. I spoke 
Italian, and when you speak a different 
language people look at your eyes and your 
mouth not at what you are doing. Meantime 
I was correcting and clicking. Then still 
when I was walking I saw those two 
beautiful hands. When I see something 
unusual and beautiful I feel trembling inside 
and that is one of those things. Where do 
you find that? That you can write poetry 
about, you can write music, you can write a 
hook of history, you can do anything, 
because those hands, they do and they 
destroy, everything which has been done 
before. Those are the soul of the body. 

The colonel of the marines gave me 
addresses of people where to go. I travelled, 
and to Texas and then to Mexico. When I 
got to Los Angeles there was a letter from 
my brother. My mother was sick. So I said. 
"Fine the trip around the world is finished. 
My mother is more important than that." 
Then I planned to settle in Italy but after 
awhile you know the call of Africa was too 
strong. I used to have to be in Genoa, at my 
brother's shop there. Then one day 
somebody came to the shop, speaking 
linglish. He said he came from Africa. 
Then another day another one come from 
Africa, and I start building up feelings and 
then one day a third one said. "I come from 
Northern Rhodesia." I said. "Where is 
Northern Rhode\ia'.'" And a little later 1 niel 
another man I had known from before who 

said he was living in Rhodesia. "And who is 
the beautiful girl?" "It is my wife.'' "My 
goodness, in such a place you met such a 
beautiful girl." And we start laughing. 
Then he left. Then I said. "Rhodesia. 
Rhodesia." .So I wrote to him and six 
months later I was here ... to get Africa off 
my chest. And after 40 years I'm still here. 
Then I was absorbed by the construction of 
Kariba Dam. 1 wanted to go there, to eat 
with them and talk with them and drink 
wine with them and take pictures of them at 
work. Those days were different. There is 
so much to remember. Kariba was such a 
magnificent, immense thing, those days, 
something pharaonic. But it has so many 
different pictures to be taken. You couldn't 
put everything in one photograph. This one 
is a worker at Kariba. You see the man. 
The light is here on the helmet and the 
background was completely black in the 
tunnel. I saw him faraway, smoking, and I 
was waiting. I saw the face, the pleasure, 
the work, the toil, everything, the cigarette 
smoke, very gently smoking, holding it 
delicately so it lasts more, the fingernails cut 
accordingly, the little one is already a bit 

That is also Zimbabwe, with the bambina. a 
touch of deeply felt lovely soft humanity. 
There you have three generations, and I 
caught by chance the happiness with this 
little child, the hands very content, the 
mother with such a soft smile, the old 
grandmama looking. You can write a story, 
you can write a life book, you can write so 
many things on a photo like that. Plus the 
background gives nice feelings, the kitchen, 
the life of a woman, a mother, half of it is 
spent in the kitchen unless she is an 
engineer, but usually. 

BM: Is there one of the photos on 
exhibition that is your favourite? 

IB: Well I like human faces. The human 
face is an encyclopedia. It depends on the 
person who knows how to read. I like 
people. You can learn something from 
everyone. You've got to read the body, to 
have a face expressing things strongly, a 
landscape or other things according to the 
composition etchetera. So the one that 
really to me is my best photograph is the 
one of the old man 105 years old. The old 
face of the man with the wrinkles, you can 
look at it and you can look at it and you can 
look at it again. And every time you see 
something different. It is all the humanity 
converging into the face of one human. So 
depending upon all what your thoughts are, 
are in that face. To me that is the best. Here 
you can see the Arabs. You see he is smiling 
a little. 

BM: Who was he, Ilo? Did you know him? 

IB: No. I was passing by a mosque one day 
and he was seated there, reading the beads, 
you know, praying with beads, one two 

three. So 1 went to him and 1 said something 
then I walk up and down and keep talking 
and then I move back and took two shots. 
Always a thought behind every photograph. 
Particularly 1 like always faces, because the 
human face is an open book. It doesn't 
matter where you come from, what 
language. It has universal language. It is 
your face and your eyes. And if you can see 
and catch those moments ... 

(top) Shaft Construction Worker's 
Respite, Kariba, Zimbabwe, 1958 

(middle) A Welsh Granny at the 
Vumba, Zimbabwe, 1967 

(below) 105 Year-Old Arabian 
Patriarch, Saudi Arabia, 1947 


Landscapes of Zimbabwe by 
Robert Paul, Victoria Gallery, 
Bath, England, September- 
November 1996 

In eighteenth-century Bath, a town of golden 
niasoni^. Georgian crescents and carved 
street names. Landscapes of Zimbabwe was 
a deeply exotic exhibition title. Not being 
very familiar with Robert Paul's work. I was 
struck by the ease with which it transferred 
to this setting. Its subjects — wild beaches, 
African wilderness, Nyanga mists and so on 
— are exotic, but they were produced within 
the compass of a thoroughly European 

Paul was educated in Bath and well known 
to have been a friend of John Piper and Ivon 
Hitchens, central figures in a romantically 
inflected branch of postwar British 
landscape painting. Their impact on Paul 
seems to have been at most spasmodic; 
Patricia Broderick's memory of his having 
been deeply attracted to Bonnard's colour 
conveys a more profound sense of 
'influence". Bonnard's extraordinary 
conjunctions of mauve, brown, blue and 
pink are transformed in Paul's paintings into 
a means of conveying the physical structure 
of landscape, an unchanging substructure 
that sustains the accidents of vegetation and 
human traces and the evanescent effects of 
light. In contrast. Piper's legacy appears in, 
for instance, the drawing Cecil House, as a 
decorative mode, full of charm and whimsy. 

There is very little of the deliberate 
construction of 'place' — real or imaginary, 
with complex interweavings of past and 
present — that is familiar in the work of 
Paul's contemporaries like Hitchens and 
Sutherland, though there are intense 
evocations, particularly in the works on 
paper, of atmosphere and weather. It is not 
surprising then, that he is most convincing 
when the paintings depart from the facts of 
the subject, from a relationship, that is, with 
topographical exactitude, to recreate passing 
glimpses of light, wind and water Two 
gouaches titled Qoloia. Transkei. painted a 
decade apart, hung side by side, as if to 
demonstrate the point. The first, dated 1951, 
is an almost hard-edged rendering of sea and 
sky, exact but untransformed; the second, a 
turbulent mass of rich colour overlaid with 
swirls of black is alive with the heat of a sea 
wind and the frenzy of whipped waves. 

process of drawing where the pen bypassed 
the mind in an act of autonomous 
imagination. At other times Paul's media 
ranged from wax resist to gouache and ink 
overlaid with fingerprints, suggesting that he 
pushed the paint around like a kind of one- 
dimensional sculpture. A delicious late 
drawing, Beira, sets out the lineaments of 
the town in fine and witty detail, overlaid 
with patches of uncharacteristically high, 
bright reds and blues, recalling with elegant 
economy the sense of release that the 
beaches brought to those who came from a 
landlocked country. Oil paint, though, or 
rather Paul's unusual combination of oil and 
egg tempera, was a medium of substance, a 
more solemn matter, adopted to convey the 
depth, the endurance of landscape, laid on in 
heavy blocks of colour that suggest 
resistance to change, to human intervention, 
even to the vagaries of natural light and 
climatic infelicities. 

Lack of space at Bath's Victoria Art Gallery 
demanded a rigorous selection, so that not 
all the available work was on view. A 
decision was also taken to reframe many of 
the paintings, resulting in an extremely well 
selected exhibition, admirably hung to 
indicate a coherent development throughout 
the artist's career. It was accompanied, 
filled out and recorded by a beautifully 
produced book*, with numerous black and 
white and colour reproductions. It contains 
particulariy interesting essays by Paul's 
daughter. Colette Wiles, and Patricia 
Broderick. who knew him in later life and 
provides invaluable insights into his painting 
practice. Margaret Garlake 

Robert Paul, Beira 


Paul's eclectic use of media and his constant 
experimentation are fundamental to any 
reading of his work. Ink, sometimes a 
medium simply for fast, economical 
representation, might become almost 
literally a flight of fantasy, as it did in a 
gouache drawing of 1979, The Monhlair 
(sec Gallery no 1 p6). It shows a rocky 
terrain, covered with loose, vibrant areas of 
fresh green vegetation, above which a bird 
files, followed by a long, trailing black line, 
meandering in a jagged, zany fiight path, a 

*C. Wiles et al., Robert Paul. Harare, 1996, 
ISBN 7974 1614 5. 

Editor's note: The book, Robert Paul. 
contains essays by Colette Wiles, Brian 
Bradshaw, Francois Roux, Patricia 
Broderick and Martin van der Spuy, as well 
as 92 illustrations of which 28 are in colour. 
It will be on sale in Zimbabwe in the near 

Balancing Act, paintings by Paul 
Wade, Sandro's, October 1996 

When Paul Wade first appeared on the local 
art scene in 1986 he exhibited textiles which 
were unique on the Zimbabwean art 
platform at the time. They were soft 
sculptures in which the weave, the weft and 
warp, in colourful combinations, became 
irregular, breaking up the formal rectangle 
into sculptural shapes. Materials used 
included wool, metal, plastic, paper and tin 

There is a direct link 
from those 

backgrounds are formed by spasmodic 
spaces which like gigantic musical intervals 
provide a kind of counterpoint to the various 
themes. And beyond the initial sense of the 
pleasure the artist takes in the possibilities of 
the paint itself is a underlying 
thoughtfulness. Each work has a specific 
subject and Wade employs not only line, 
colour and image but also a variety of 
physical formats to convey his meanings. 
His .series of small icons, heavily framed in 
gold, can be interpreted as tombs where the 

plummeting through realms of painterly 
freedom. The broad scratch marks evoke a 
tangle of tattered and breaking feathers; a 
passionate confusion. 

Icon for Rosa Parks celebrates in a warm 
and gentle way her strength and beauty of 
soul. The curved wooden board on which it 
is painted is at once as mundane as a bus 
with windows, as simple and homely as a 
headboard for a bed, and as sacred and 
venerable as a holy shrine. The hidden 
strength is portrayed in the underlying 
structure of squares, loosely 
formed. The 


to the works on show in Balancing Act. 
Colour and energy breaking out of the 
confines of flat canvas or wood is the overall 
impression of this vigorous exhibition. The 
artist has taken a path through exploration of 
paint, closely harnessed investigation and 
the bringing out of the subconscious in 
random markings. His search is for natural 
signs; it toys with the bizarre and creates 
with colourful, gestural indicators, a pulse of 
life. The scratch marks and vivid impasto 
give Wade's work an almost organic 
presence similar to those past weavings with 
their knots and bushy tangles. Here the 
paint invigorates the pictorial image giving 
the spectator an atmospheric vibration. The 

iconographic figure disappears leaving only 
the aura. 

Celestial Equator, the largest canvas on 
show, depicts an expansive vibrating line of 
energy cutting between a dark and a light. 
Orange and purple flashes break out and 
leap across this division, an exchange of 
atoms. This painting would have a stronger 
impact if divided to form a diptych. The six 
doors split into four and two would further 
evoke a meeting of energies. 

The Fall II shows an Icarus figure plunging 
downwards through a spin of colour — red 
on blue, blue on orange and pink — 



(above) Paul Wade, 
Icon for Rosa Parks 

(right) Paul Wade, The Fall II 

softly applied to melt and blend, emerge 
from a dark ground with here and there 
scratches through to reveal bright pure 

In contrast. Icon for Malcolm X is an 
aggressive work in cruciform shape, 
constructed of hard wood squares set 
expressively on edge, pierced and hammered 
together with gold painted nails. The 
surfaces of these squares are broken, 
cracked, scratched. Brushstrokes and lines 
wildly score the dark. This is a monument 
for a survivor — struggle, violence, 
blackness and a victory. 

The sixteen painted cubes that make up 
Playtime are inspired by a child's coloured 
blocks. Paul Wade has crafted an intriguing 
work which enables the viewer/owner to 
make up his or her own work of art, a 
different one each morning. By rearranging 
and placing the blocks, an estimated 2.8 
million million artworks are possible. 
Playtime is the sort of work that should be 
permanently available at the National 
Gallery to invite active visitor participation. 
Also on show were the Butterfly series 
which broke the edge of the serious work 
and would have been better excluded. 

The urgency and drive, the spontaneous, 
colourful paint strokes, with which Paul 
Wade sets down his intentions immediately 
compel us to look, if not listen, to what he is 
compressing in his investigation of the 
subconscious. Helen Lieros p-i 

street Sellers of Zimbabwe Stone 
Sculpture: Artists and Entrepre- 
neurs by ClJve and Maricarol 
Kileff, Gweru: Mambo Press, 1996 
(Pp 68 $94.65) 

"In the lileniiy world. Shakespeare's Hamlet 
has been produced millions of times, yet this 
mass production of text has not changed the 
essence of the work ... as in literature, the 
popularization of stone sculpture has 
allowed novice-collectors and laymen of the 
art world to begin an appreciation of 

EzeMatojeni: paintings by the 
lateTodd Dube, National Gallery 
in Bulawayo, August/September 

In memory of Todd Dube, the Bulawayo 
artist. Voti Thebe, wrote: 

'To(( have painted and adorned 

The hills of Matopos, 

Rivers and rivulets. 

You have reminded me of the davs 

herding my father's goals. 

You have adorned almost all the trees'' 


This astonishing piece of intellectual flim- 
flam, in the Introduction to Street Sellers of 
Zimbabwe Stone Sculpture, is as much as 
one needs to know about the theoretical 
framework of the book, and the intrusive 
hyphen in 'novice-collectors' (people with a 
fondness for trainee nuns, perhaps?) is a 
foretaste of the typographical salad served 
up on nearly every page that follows. Nor 
does George Kahari's Foreword inspire 
confidence, with its suggestion that Robert 
Paul, Helen Lieros and Never Kayowa, far 
from being painters, are in fact 'in Song- 
writing and Composition ". Shame on you, 
George! (And shame on Mambo's editor for 
the proliferation of Capital Letters.) 

All of which is a pity, because inside this 
untidy little book, an important narrative is 
struggling to escape. 

The protagonists in Street Sellers..., are the 
street sellers themselves. Shorn of the 
rickety academic scaftblding into which they 
have been poked, and given a more rigorous 
approach to the economic and social 
intricacies of their calling, we could have 
had a fascinating account of the country's 
bristling informal sector. 

Some engaging glimpses, not surprisingly, 
do emerge. Costa Gurupira, for instance, 
spotting the market for 'peace sign" 
pendants, and gearing his production 
accordingly; the women who commute to 
Cape Town's pavements, trading their 
suitcases full of stone for a return flow of 
fridges and televisions; Sonny Sameal, 
happier carving rhinos than he ever was 
working underground in the mines, or 
overground as a security guard. 

This is the stuff of our national life; why 
burden it with a cargo of la/y taxonomy and 
even lazier theory? 

For those of us suckled on the idea of 
deference to scholarship, the dissonance 
between the author's credentials and his 
production is a real pu//le. In his 
Acknowledgements, Dr Cliye Kileff thanks 
the University of Tennessee for "granting 
me a sabbatical ... to gather information, 
coiuluci research, and prepare this 
manuscript. " Cynics might say that they 
were glad to be rid of hini for a while. 
Murray McCartney 

This exhibition of over 40 watercolours and 
oils, aptly entitled EzeMatojeni, was a 
celebration of Todd Dube's life as an artist, 
which was brought to an untimely end in a 
motorcycle accident in 1995, and also a 
celebration of the source of his inspiration 
— the landscape of the Matopos. 

Born on New Year's day in 1968 in Kezi 
District of Matopos, Todd Dube did his 
secondary schooling in Bulawayo. Despite 
early ambitions to be a doctor and relentless 
pressure from family and relatives who felt 
that he should carry on with academic 
studies to university level, quietly and 
resolutely Dube soldiered on in pursuit of 
his goal to create a name as a landscape 
artist. He enrolled with the Bulawayo 
Technical College School of Art and Design 
and paid his way through college from the 
proceeds of sales of his paintings. 

Todd Dube's love of nature's serenity was a 
thread running through his entire work, 
reinforced more so by images of water, dams 
and even puddles. His mind's eye captured 
the still waters snaking below the grey 
granite outcrops, along unploughed fields, 
over the setting sun. You can almost smell 
the dust kicked by the mealie-laden donkeys 
in the piece. The Burden of the Beasts. 
Attachment to community was another side 
of Dube's work. He did paintings showing 
women collecting water, firewood or 
thatching grass, and boys rounding up cattle 
home from grazing. 

Opening the exhibition, John Nkomo said, 
"Every stroke of paint was a joyful one ... 
We find solace in the paintings around us 
which were Todd's vision'' 
Busani Bafana 

Shepherd Mahufe, 
Carry Food 

Gareth Fletcher, 

Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery, 
November-January (Harare), February- 
March (Bulawayo) 1996 

The Nulional Gallery is once more filled with work 
that attempts to represent the outpouring of artistic 
effort in Zimbabwe, and this year it is a good show. 
The variety of individual approach is more marked 
than in recent years with young artists stealing the 

thunder. Ishmael 
Wilfred has won the 
Overall Award for 
Distinction in 
Painting for Dwaif, 
as well as an Award 
of Merit for Red 
Edible, both vibrant 
parts of his 
exploration of the 
African spirit world 
with its witches and 
their underlings. 
Shepherd Mahufe. 
creating, in contrast, a strongly shaped and shadowed 
depiction of daily reality, Carry Food, has won the 
other Award of Merit for painting. Amongst those 
whose work was Highly Commended is Hilary 
Kashiri with an energetic and colourful rendering. 
Commuter Rank II. It is impressive to see how 
three young painters" work has developed in a 
relatively short period of time. Their physical 
manipulation of the paint and their employment of 
colour and form have matured in step with their 

growing confidence in their own individual 
views of life. 

The welcome involvement 
of the Dutch in the local 
arts scene brings with it 
new honours, the Belden 
op de Berg Foundation 
Awards for Distinction in 
painting and sculpture, 
which went to Chikonzero 
Chazunguza for Becoming 
Myself and to Joseph 
Muzondo for Wild Horse respectively. 
Another work by Chazunguza which 
caught my eye was Beijin Blues. Quite how the title 
relates I'm not sure but his use of traditional dry grass 
brushes to create intriguing and satisfying objects is 
an interesting new departure. Gerry Dixon recently 
used mutsvairo as part of a dramatic burning 
performance piece. Para Noire, and as a new material 
it seems to offer multiple and perhaps particularly 
African directions. 

Lizard by Harry 
Mutasa is a 
rendition of 
reptilian spirit — 
the alertness, the 
aggressive head, 
the rigid toes, the 
cold eye. yet that 
wide belly 
longing to slump 
and spread in the 
sun. Mutasa is 


T^K ^1 


< ^^■bSS.j^b 

^^^^^^^Hi ^ 

one young sculptor who has 

internalised in his own way 

the lessons in movement. 

weight and energy revealed 

by the master, Arthur 

Az.evedo, whose striding 

Secreta/y Bird is a 

personality captured. 

Upstairs. Old Giraffe Man 

by Stanley Matengwa moves 

with angular elegance and 

gentleness, supported by his 

stick, simple, with long 

leaning neck, wise, pale, 

watchful — a quiet presence reminding us of the 

inter-relation of human and animal spirits that is so 

much a pari of our local philosophical heritage. This 

work is alive with its own life. Too many of the 

other exhibited sculptures remain, for me, merely 

shaped, untransformed 

lumps of stone. 

In one patch of our 

"heritage' is abstract 

work by Simon Back, his 

Harare Evening a finely 

articulated balance of 

line, form and colour, 

and the minimalist Folk 

(sic) by Gareth Fletcher 

with its intriguing 

illusion. And in another 

patch is Comrades ' War 

by Norman Mhondiwa 

with its astonishing 

colour and naive-style 

detail and Mobile Afriean Village Ark by Dexter 

Nyamainashe. an extended and intricate version of 

the popular push-along wire toys. It is an interesting 

exercise to look carefully at all the patches that make 

up our communal cloak. 

This 1996 Heritage is confirmation of the variety of 
talent in Zimbabwe, and perhaps most obviously it 
reveals, in many of the less successful works, the 
potential for development. We may have trouble 
sorting out our 'heritage" but our future is all around 
us, waiting to happen. Once again we are indebted 
to Mobil and Anglo-American for their continuing 
support to the visual arts in Zimbabwe and special 
gratitude is due to Roy Lander who for so many 
years has been the enabling force behind a multitude 
of worthwhile cultural projects in dance, literature, 
music and the visual arts (including Gallery 
magazine). Barbara Murray 

Simon Back, 



Hilary Kashiri, 
Rank II 

Norman Mhondiwa, Comrades War 

Dexter Nyamainashe, Mobile African Village Art 

Playground 'sculptures' by 
Nichola Henshaw, Crispen 
Matekenya, Kate Arnold and 
Keston Beaton, Blakiston School, 

Two British and two Zimbabwean artists 
have spent eight weeks working in situ at 
Blakiston Primary School making a climbing 
frame, chairs, benches, stools and other 
items for the children's playground. First, in 

workshop with the artists, the children 
were invited to draw and paint figures from 
their own imaginations, their stories and 
myths. Using the children's drawings as the 
source for designs, the artists then carved 
and painted wood, and laid mosaics, creating 
an environment of fantastical shapes, vibrant 
colours, surprising objects and fun furniture. 

The climbing frame is a combination of 
poles by all four artists, each adding his or 
her own individual style. A multitude of 
animals, human beings and other creatures 
twine and cavort around the frame inviting 
the children to join them in a magical game. 

Nichola Henshaw employs a musical theme 
to produce a delightful set of child-sized 
benches and tables in the form of guitars and 
other instruments. 

Outstanding among the works is a chair by 
Crispen Matekenya. A great fish, rising up 
over six feet tall, provides a seat in the curve 
of its powerful, scale-covered body and a 
backrest against its tail — a ride to carry one 
on an imaginary journey. 

One of the children from Blakiston School 
described the playground as a desert before 
the artists arrived. "Now we need more time 
to play." Barbara Murray 

Michiel Dolk, Seascape (details) 

Barhiira Miirrav 

Michiel Dolk, Seascape, Royal 
Netherlands Embassy, Harare 

Zimbabweans, forget all that talk about 
this being a landlocked eounti^. We now 
have our very own coastline. 

Thirty-two pieces of beautifully coloured 
marble installed in front of the Royal 
Netherlands Embassy in Harare provide 
us with a marine experience. Each is a 
subtle beach scene with softly lapping 
waves, pale sands washed and moved by 
the flow of tides, grey sea stretching out 
to a distant horizon. 

To stand in the middle and slowly turn 
around the circle is to be on some lonely 
beach, a fortuitously placed palm tree 
adding to the illusion. This is nature 
imitating nature; nature painting her own 
seascape — discovered, cut. smoothed, 
polished and placed by Michiel Dolk for 
our contemplation. 

The Royal Netherlands Embassy is to be 
congratulated for commissioning this 
lovely work of art. Perhaps some of the 
other embassies will consider 
commissioning out further gardens thus 
supporting local artists. Enabling both 
locals and visitors to appreciate art. 
Barbara Murray 

forthcoming events and exhibitions 

Gallery Delta will be having its Summer 
Show in December/January. There is a lot 
of change and movement taking place with 
artists — visitors, travellers and others who 
have not shown before at Delta — bringing 
in interesting work. The show will include, 
amongst others, paintings by two British 
artists. Maryclare Foa and Martin 
Beresford. heliographs by American 
Lawrence Beck, and ceramics by 
Zambian Andrew Macromalis. Following 
on in January is the annual Students and 
Young Artists Exhibition, a chance to 
see burgeoning talent locally as well as work 
by Zimbabwe students studying art 
externally Suzy Pennington and Helen 
Kedgley from New Zealand will be 
exhibiting recent paintings and textiles in 

An exhibition of work by Piet Mondrian 

will open at the National Gallery in Harare 
on 4 February. Children's work will also be 
on show in February: peace posters and 
work submitted for a calendar. In March, 
the Genesis exhibition from Munsterland. 
Germany, with work by LuiS Meque, 
Keston Beaton and Tapfuma Gutsa 
along with three German artists. Jupp 
Ernst, Peer Christian Stuwe and Felix 
Droese, will arrive. Galleiy no 6 ran an 
article on this exhibition which was well 
received in Germany. And opening on 18 
March is a solo show of paintings and 
graphics by one of our prominent young 
artists. Hilary Kashiri. 

An international workshop will be held 
at Sandro's durmg January which will 
encompass ceramics, glass, sculpture and 
painting and include Zimbabwean. Dutch. 
Danish and English artists. People are 

invited to watch the artists at work as well as 
see their finished pieces at the end of 
January. Photographs and paintings by 
Robbie Small will be exhibited in 

The National Gallery in Bulawayo will be 
holding the 10th VAAB Exhibition during 
December and January. This annual event is 
a showcase for Matabeleland's top artists. 
Thereafter the national Heritage 
Exhibition will be on display. 

Installation work by Tapfuma Gutsa will 
be on show at Pierre Gallery in January. This 
will be followed by an exhibition of wood 
sculpture, including work by Zephania 
Tshuma; and later a group show of 
paintings, including work by Barry Lungu. 



No 11 


Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publisher and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Gallery magazine; 



Anglo American Corporation Services Limited 


The Rio Tinto Foundation 


Joerg Sorgenicht 




Tanganda Tea Company Limited 







March 1997 

Artnotes : the AICA conference on Art Criticism & Africa 

Burning fires or slumbering embers? : ceramics in Zimbabwe 
by Jack Bennett 

The perceptive eye and disciplined hand : Richard Witikani 
by Barbara Murray 

Confronting complexity and contradiction : the 1996 Heritage 
Exhibition by Anthony Chennells 

Painting the essence : the harmony and equilibrium of Thakor 
Patel by Barbara Murray 

Reviews of recent work and forthcoming exhibitions 

and events including: 

Earth. Water, Fire: recent work by Berry Bickle, 

by Helen Lieros 

10th Annual VAAB Exhibition, by Busani Bafana 

Explorations - Transformations, by Stanley Kurombo 

Robert Paul a book review by Anthony Chennells 

Cover: Tendai Gumbo, vessel, 1995, 25 x 20cm, terracotta, coiled 
and pit-fired (photo credit: Jack Bennett & Barbara Murray) 

Left: Crispen Matekenya, Baboon Chair, 1996, 160 x 1 10 x 80cm, 




© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design & typesetting: 
Myrtle Mollis. Originaiion: HPP Studios. Printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. 
Paper: Magno from Graphtec Lid. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
in any manner or form without permission. 

The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
themselves and not necessarily those of Gallery Delta, the publisher or the 
editor Articles are invited for submission. Please address them to The 

Subscriptions from Gallery Publications, c/o Gallery Delta, 1 10 Livings!"! 
Avenue, RO. Box UA 373, Union Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe. 
Tel & Fax: (263-4)792135. e-mail: 


One of the reasons for Europe and North 
America's dominance in the art world is the 
w ide range of stringent criticism that 
surrounds art in those countries. Art, 
curators, galleries, arts bodies, as well as the 
critics, are constantly under scrutiny in 
newspapers, magazines, in lectures at 
universities and conferences, on TV and 
radio. As a result, informed debate is 
generated. Art becomes public knowledge 
and art criticism contributes to development 
and to the quality of life. 

But in Africa art criticism is sorely lacking. 
In November last year, Zimbabwe, Nigeria 
and South Africa sent delegates to a 
conference on Art Criticism & Africa at the 
Courtauld Institute. London, organised by 
the British section of the International 
Association of Art Critics (AICA). Of the 
61 national branches of AICA, only three are 
in Africa! The aims of the conference were 
to investigate the critical culture in 
Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa, and to 
encourage the formation of local branches of 

The first session of the conference. 'Art 
Criticism of Africa outside Africa', featured 
representatives of those exiles from Africa 
whose role in nudging and irritating the West 
into recognising art from Africa should not 
be underestimated. However, they have 
lived outside Africa for a long time and now 
have an identity crisis. Gavin Jantjes, 
originally from South Africa, admitted as 
much when he spoke of "a rear-view mirror' 
and of problems in separating the 
motherland itself from the exile's idea of the 
motherland. Olu Oguibe, originally from 
Nigeria, painted a grim view of freedom of 
expression in Africa saying "healthy 
criticism is impossible in Africa" and "there 
is no culture of excellence in Africa". 
George Shire, a Zimbabwean exile, defined 
criticism as a political act and spoke of the 
need to decolonise art criticism in 

The second session, 'The Art Critic as 
Advocate', moved on to views from 
participants who live in Africa and know the 
realities. The tone became less theoretical 
and surprisingly more hopeful. Murray 
McCartney highlighted the massive potential 
of the media in promoting art and pointed 
incisively to examples of wide-spread 
existing disinterest, self-censorship and 
lethargy. Tony Mhonda defined Zimbabwe 
as "an a-critical society", spoke of the need 
for grassroots education, condemned Gallery 
as a minority, magazine and went on to 
berate Zimbabwean critics for being elitist. 
Chika Okeke revealed that Nigeria, despite 
its trenchant political repression, has a more 

healthy critical environment than Zimbabwe. 
He argued that art criticism is not an 
'either — or' phenomenon; that "all critical 
enterprise in whatever mode or medium 
aims at virtually the same goal — a fuller 
articulation and appreciation of art." He 
spoke about the importance of popular and 
oral criticism emphasising that criticism can 
be accommodating rather than divisive and 
that inclusivity of viewpoints is essential. 
He later described a marvellous-sounding 
annual event in Nigeria — the Art Stampede. 
This is an informal social occasion for artists 
and critics from all the arts. One or two 
people make speeches but the essence of the 
event is to interject, to question, to create an 
open, free-for-all atmosphere and exchange 
of views. 

The third session looked at political and 
administrative effects on art criticism. Once 
again the comparative strength of Nigeria 
was obvious. Ola Oloidi. critic and art 
historian at the University of Nsukka, 
examined the growth of criticism in Nigeria 
explaining that it sprang from colonial 
sources but that it has evolved into a 
"tradition that can be considered dynamic 
and promising". He emphasised "the 
importance of an indigenous art-critical 
culture and the need for an internationalist 
inside-out and not outside-in critical 
attitude'' Fatima Afifi. director of AICA- 
Egypt, gave evidence of the integrating 
potential of AICA which, because of its 
independence, can transcend divisions and 
combat political and cultural pressures on 
art. Colin Richards, a lecturer from Wits 
University, explained that art criticism does 
not have a firm base in South Africa; that 
there is no specialist art journal and that 
critical discourse remains "both rarefied and 
underdeveloped'. He said that in the 'new 
South Africa' facilities and possibilities are 
more evenly distributed throughout the 

This point was forcefully contradicted by the 
South African artist and curator, David 
Koloane, in the fourth session. Koloane, 
speaking on the topic 'Art Criticism for 
Whom?' said things have not changed. The 
power remains with the white establishment 
and "there is a need for a common 
.sensibility to tackle the problems confronting 
both black and white artists." This is similar 
to Zimbabwe where art criticism had a white 
source and access has remained limited. In 
both colonial and post-independence cultural 
policy art is dismissed as entirely 
superfluous. With minimal art education, a 
disinterested government and an 
unenlightened media, the little art criticism 
there is must target as many people as 
possible without compromising its 

standards. Art criticism can, and in 
Zimbabwe it must, fulfill multiple roles as 
educator, promoter, recorder, supporter and 
catalyst. Despite its modest beginnings and 
some might say its colonial origins. Gallery 
attempts to reach as far as possible and with 
the recent sponsorship from HIVOS, Gallery 
is now going to all schools that teach A level 
art and to all public, community and rural 
libraries throughout the country. 

At the end of the conference I felt strongly 
that we must rely on ourselves and build on 
what we have. Matthew Arnold said "/ am 
bound by my own definition of criticism: a 
disinterested endeavour to learn and 
propagate the best that is known and thought 
in the world'' He also said: "The great aim 
of culture [is] the aim of setting ourselves to 
ascertain what perfection is and to make it 
prevail." With 20th-century relativism we 
have gained greater tolerance. We recognise 
every individual's right to a personal version 
of 'perfection' but criticism challenges us to 
continually revise our version, not to rest on 
mediocrities but to keep looking in the hope 
that we might attain the best possible. It is 
not that there is some static definition of 
'best' or 'perfection' but that we keep on 
analysing, looking and thinking. 

In a work of art. the artist seeks the best 
expression of a facet of life. While every 
endeavour is to be welcomed, criticism 
exists to show up the perceived strengths and 
failings. The artist, curator, critic, indeed all 
of us, need to be honest enough to 
acknowledge failings if we intend to 
continue the search. Some decide to settle 
for mediocrity, that is their choice. 

Critical practice in Africa continues to be 
dogged by politics, racism and colonialism. 
Our history has led to a mentality of fear and 
the suppression of criticism, where critics 
are misconstrued as enemies rather than seen 
as allies in that search for the best. The 
critics of colonial exploitation were 
harrassed once just as the critics of 
dictatorial corruption are hartassed now. 
They are however, thankfully, never 
silenced, or not for long. Time proves 
criticism (relatively!) right or wrong in a 
multitude of ways. What is important in the 
end is that criticism exists, inviting people to 
reconsider and change. What Zimbabwe 
needs is more criticism. Perhaps an Art 
Stampede? Certainly a branch of AICA 

The Editor 


What is the state of ceramics 
in Zimbabwe today? Is it art or 

craft? Is it being taught, 
made, shown, sold? What 
is its kind and quality? ^ 
Potter, lawyer, former 
chairman of the 
National Gallery of 
Zimbabwe, Jack 
Bennett, conducts a 
survey of local 
ceramics and finds 
there are more 
questions than 

Burning fires or siumbering embers? 

In 1992 an impressive 27 potters packed 204 
works into the main space of the National Gallery 
of Zimbabwe for an exhibition of ceramics. It was 
a feast of studio pottery and open-fired earthenware. 
Granted this was a special for ceramics, with all the 
potters invited and ail entries accepted. But the fact is 
that, since then, tliere has been no other national 
exhibition specifically for ceramics and there has been a 
marked decline in entries and acceptances for the 
ceramics section in the judged annual Heritage 
exhibitions. In the 1993 Heritage 12 potters had 33 works 
accepted; but in 1996 only 6 potters managed with 15 
works. Why the drop? 

It seems in part to be due to misunderstandings between 
potters and selectors. The selectors complained of lack of 
originality and rejected many entries, saying that they 
could see little fresh work coming from established 
potters. The potters, or some of them, claimed the 
selectors were usually painters or sculptors, unfamiliar 
with the medium, and that at times they showed cultural 
bias. With no qualified ceramic selectors for the Heritage, 
no other national show of ceramics and few alternative 
opportunities for exhibiting, the potters lost interest. Why 
are there so few exhibitions of pottery in Zimbabwe? 

But exhibiting may not be the main force to spur the 
creation of ceramics. After all. potters produce to earn a 
living. This certainly applies to the traditional area and 
here it seems that life is more of a strugsle than ever. 

Monica Guta,Gafe(for beer brewing, Nyanga District), 
1982, 89 X 52cm, terracotta, coiled and pit-fired (photo 
credit: Jacl< Bennett) 

(inset top) (Potter unknown), Chirongo (for water or beer 
storage), 40 x 50cm, terracotta, coiled and pit-fired 

(inset middle) (Potter unlcnown), Hadyana (for serving 
relish), 14 x 23cm, earthenware, coiled and pit-fired 

(inset below) (Potter unknown), Chirongo , 27 x SOcrri, 
terracotta, coiled and pit-fired. (Photo credits all Dave 
hHartung, except where indicated.) 

(1) Mary-Ann Soltau, vessel, 
1997, 31 X 21cm, terracotta, 
coiled, kiln and pit-fired 

(2) Sue McCormick, vessel, 
C.1988, 32 X 17.5cm, 
earthenware, coiled, kiln and 
pit-fired, with leather 

(3) Frouwke Viewing, Dappled 
Sandy Vase, 1995, 33 x 15cm, 
porcelain, reduction fired 

(4) Carole Wales-Smith, vessel, 
1980s, 22 x 12cm, stoneware 

(5) Violet NdoroTagurira, 
vessel, c. 1982, 21 x 38cm, 
terracotta, coiled and 
(probably) pit-fired 

(Photo credits: Dave Hartung) 

Pat Melville-Thompson, former teacher 
of ceramics at Chisipite School and 
Harare Polytechnic, with an enduring 
interest in rural pottery, fears this traditional 
art is in danger of disappearing. Not only is 
the ceramic vessel being replaced by plastic 
or metalware, certainly among urban users and 
even in the rural areas, but inore seriously, the 
teaching of pottery-making skills is dying in the 
villages. Formerly mothers taught their 
daughters but now only old women toil at the 
burdensome task of fetching and preparing clay 
for patient coiling and firing in the time-honoured 
way. Besides, the lure of producing for the tourist 
market is strong, so that Batonka potters, for 
example, are now more inclined to meet foreigners" 
tastes for oil-painted vases and stereotyped animal 
figurines than to produce the vessels of old. 

Those traditional pots, with their various specific 
uses and sizes, shapes and decorations, with styles 
evolved over centuries and distinguishing regional 
features, imbued with meaning and often mystery, are 
hard to llnd. Tall, grain-storing, beer-brewing nates. 
decorated only with the random black markings of the 
Uring process, and squat, water-carrying c/j/ro/i.ijo.v, 
with perhaps a naturally stained red and black 
chevroned neck and burnished body, are still made and 
kept for ceremonial occasions. Will their styles 
change, affecting the timelessness of their beauty? Not 
ikely, says Pat Melville-Thompson, given the deep- 
seated cultural tradition combined with the limitations 
of the clay bodies and firing techniques. But the 
smaller traditional vessel, the domestic utensil or 
container, like the ihikiiri for cooking meat or 
\egetablcs, the /((/)/v<i for serv ing relish, the 
ihipfuko or beer mug, are sadly but 
understandably being replaced by the 
more readily available and often more 
practical metal or plastic substitutes. 

And what of the more formal teaching of 
ceramics in Zimbabwe? The only institution 
)ffering a structured course in ceramics is the 

Estelle Zimi, Duck, 1987, 
13 X 19 X 16cm, terracotta, 
hand-built and pit-fired 

Lena Chingono, Goat, 1986, 
41 X 34 X 20cm, terracotta, 
hand-built and pit-fired 

Harare Polytechnic. The subject is taught at National 
Certificate and Diploma levels with a practical 
orientation. Whilst different techniques of forming, 
decorating and firing are imparted, the emphasis is on 
those that do not require unusual or expensive equipment 
and materials. Thus, the courses are geared around 
terracotta clay, sawdust and pit-firing and transparent 
glazes. It is felt that this better equips the students to 
continue on their own after completing their studies. 

These forced but sensible restrictions clearly demonstrate 
the need for the Regional School of Art and Design, that 
ambitious project devised by the National Gallery of 
Zimbabwe, which looks as though it may remain stuck on 
the drawing board. Whilst a very few of the larger 
schools are equipped with pottery-making gear, they lack 
the qualified and innovative teachers whom the School of 
Art and Design was intended to produce. 

Does all this mean that the future of formal ceramic 
teaching and creation is bleak? Alison Brayshaw. who 
taught last year's ceramics courses at Harare Polytechnic, 
sees hope in some of her students who are currently 
attending courses overseas on grants, who will pass on 
their knowledge when they return. Also encouraging is 
that the last three years" students who completed the 
National Diploma in Fine Art have produced some 
exciting and innovative ceramics. Tendai Gumbo, with 
her torn forms, and Mary-Ann Soltau, with her abstract 
drawing applied to pit-fired vessels, are showing 
particular talent. And current Polytech students are 
working on a project which looks at traditional pottery, 
combining pot-making with research into social and 
cultural values. 

Meanwhile the stream of hand-made, hand-decorated, 
domestic and functional ware continues to flow from 
workplaces varying in size from the small single-potter 
studio to the larger 40-staff potteries. All is made with 
great care and labour, and most with fine craftmanship. 
What decides what is made? Well, the market of course, 
and this is where the maker's integrity as artist or 
craftsperson is put to the stiffest test. 

The demand from tourists, foreign buyers and locals is 
great. Estelle Zimi. until her recent illness, sold her large 
terracotta vessels and animal forms to eager collectors, as 
do Johane and Susan Marimo with their figures. Nicola 
Bryce of Ros Byrne Pottery in Msasa says they often 
cannot keep up with the orders for their hand-thrown 
domestic stoneware, brightly decorated with fruit and 
flower designs. Similarly the unglazed candle holders 
and gold glazed animal objects from Umwinsidale Pottery 
and the wide range of subtly coloured functional 

tableware and tiles from Sitra Pottery have a large 
market. Smaller Harare potteries such as those run by 
Marge Wallace and Alison Brayshaw produce highly 
individualistic ceramics with more abstract and modem 
decorative effects. In and around Bulawayo. Mzilikazi 
Pottery and Gwai River Pottery keep up their production 
of distinctive hand-made domestic ware, tiles and jars. 

But is this art? Robin Hopper in his Functional Pottery 
— Fonn and Aesthetic in Pots of Purpose writes: 

"There has been little written on the art of making 
functional pottery, perhaps because in the past making 
utilitarian wares has largely been viewed as a means to 
an end rather them an end in itself. In the contemporary 
art arena, pottery has been looked at as the poor cousin 
to painting and sculpture, in much the same way as the 
graphic arts were once viewed. Pottery is neither 
painting nor sculpture, although it has elements of both. 
It is significant that in many of the world's languages 
there is no word for 'art'. Art is the result which comes 
from the activity known as 'craft '. There may be good 
or bad art, the quality being largely dependent on the 
combination of skill, understanding, emotion and 

Ceramic art is about unique and individual creativity, 
which can show itself in myriad ways, in forms, in 
decoration, in sculptures, in conceptual or functional 
vessels. If we are looking at ceramics as an art form. 
and creauvity as its inspiration, how would we rate the 
state of the art in Zimbabwe? Helen Lieros. artist and 
co-owner of Gallery Delta says: 

"We have the expertise but we do not experiment 
enough. The work is very classical, very beautiful, but I 
look at ceramics as sculpture and like to see potters 
exploring the form, destroying and re-creating it. We 
need more stimulation from outside, like we had from 
visiting Kenxaii/British potter Magdalene Odundo. and 
the New Zealanders Wi Taepa and Robyn Stewart: and 
the recent showing of work by Zambian Andrew 
Makromallis at Delta" 

Multimedia artist Berry Bickle agrees, not surprisingly, 
considering her own fiery solo exhibition at Delta in 
November 1996. where porcelain slabs and bowls were 
incorporated into daring installations with mixed media 
works on paper. Bickle says: 

"Our potters are very good but there is no obvious 
developtnetjt. No one is extending ideas. In the 
traditional pottery, there is no progression and in the 
studio pottery, there is stagnation. We should take note 

Stephen Williams, plate, 
1985, 22cm diameter, 

of South 

African (former 


resident) ceramicist 

Howard Minne. 

pushing the frontiers of the 

traditional African form in his 

huge sculptural pots, shown as 

prizewinners in the National Ceramics 

Quarterly magazine of South Africa." 

Is there a valid meeting point between traditional and 
modern pottery, between African and European ideas, 
feelings, expressions, cultures? Violet Ndoro Tagurira 
using the traditional African terracotta and pit-fired 
inethods produced strong, simple, classical vessels. 
Tendai Gumbo has also combined the more European 
forms with the strength and earthiness of the African 
style. Mary-Ann Soltau and some other potters have 
been experimenting in this direction. Gumbo's most 
recent work, a group of terracotta, pit-t~ired items, draws 
on Ndebele funerary traditions but includes some 
abstract human forms in the modem European idiom. 
Carole Wales-Smith has consistently developed her 
ring-necked vessels inspired by African body 
ornaments. Sue McCormick has explored forms using 
unglazed clay and leather in designs evolved from 
gourds, rocks, seeds and other objects of the African 

Does there have to be a meeting point and can there be 
one that happens naturally? Can older potters change 
their styles, and should they? It is said that pottery 
forms lend themselves to infinite variety, so that even 
the bowl and the bottle, those two basic forms which 
have been shaped by the world's civilisations since time 
immemorial, have never been exhausted. So. despite 
the ingenuity of thousands, perhaps millions, of potters 
nurtured by numerous diverse cultures, ancient and 
modern, eastern and western, northern and southern, 
there is no end to the variety of line, let alone 
decoration. Frouwke Viewing continues to produce 
subtle variations in her finely glazed porcelain bottles 
and bowls. Is there a future for this Anglo-Oriental 
studio pottery style, with its pure forms and muted 
colours, evolved by Hamada and Leach in the 30s and 
40s. thereafter heavily influencing potters in Rritaiii. 
America and other countries? 

Will the New Ceramics, which broke the Anglo-Oriental 
mould in those countries, set a new one now? Can the 
new free-form trials, the vivid colourings, the painteriy/ 
sculptural experiments, those products of post-war 
ceramic renaissances, make a style? There seems to be 
some unity in their diversity, the result of easy 

creating international 
resemblances. Should 
Zimbabwe become a part of 
this new movement and can 
Can we develop, or are we 
developing, a style of our own? 

The earth form is perhaps the oldest and most 
traditional art form in Zimbabwean culture. The 
materials and processes are available and relatively 
cheap. Clay is limitlessly malleable and flexible, capable 
of responding to the unique expression of individuality, it 
has endless possibilities. Significantly experiments in 
ceramics in Zimbabwe have been carried out by painters 
and sculptors such as Stephen Williams. Voti Thebe. 
Simon Back and Berry Bickle. Is there a way forward? 

Herbert Read wrote in his book The Meaning of Art: 

"Patten- is at once the simplest and the most difficult of 
the arts. It is the simplest because it is the most 
eleitiental: it is the most difficult because it is the most 
abstract ... Judge the art of a country: judge the finest of 
its sensibility, by its pottery: it is a 
sure touchstone. Pottery is pure 
art: it is art freed from any 
imitative intention." 

Simon Back, 


1992, 25 X 15cm 


Richard Witikani, 
from a sketchbook 

Many of Zimbabwe's young artists slide too easily 
into the carelessness of abstraction, relying on 
luck to provide a passable combination. 
Barbara Murray writes about one artist who 
offers an outstanding example of creative 
control and integrity 

The perceptive eye and disciplined hand: 

Richard Witikani 

Richard Witikani, Woman with Flowers, 1996, 95 x 78cm, oil on paper 

"Myself I just paint because I like lo paint. 
It 'sjust a pleasure. 1 just enjoy it. And you 
are there to judge if you like it or not." 

This honest directness is something one 
rarely gets from an artist in 1997. It belies 
the dedication with which Richard Witikani 
pursues his desire to paint and, in its 
modesty, it downplays the achievements of 
this fine young artist. 

Richard Witikani lives and works in the 
countryside east of Harare. Apart from two 
years of his life, he has always lived in a 
rural environment and recognises it as the 
source of his art. He was bom in Wedza on 
the 1st January 1967, his father Malawian. a 
tractor driver, and his mother, Zimbabwean. 
Both his primary and secondary education 
were at local rural schools culminating at St 
Vincent's in Nora, "where I first met people 
who were interested in art". 

From the age of 13, Witikani had been 
fascinated by photographs in newspapers 
which he studied and copied. "Then that got 
boring so I tried something more 
challenging, drawing a person in front of 
me!' Taking the people around him as 
subjects, Witikani quickly developed 
considerable drafting skills as well as a sense 
of form and composition. His talent was 
noticed by a teacher at St Vincent's who 
began to encourage him and enabled him to 
lake art for ZJC which he passed, despite 
there being no art classes and no art teacher, 
with a distinction. Level-headed and 
Mitelligent, Witikani achieved good results in 
all his O level subjects whereon his parents 
suggested that he do office work of some 
kind. Witikani however, with quiet 
determination and the help of his teacher, got 
a place at the National Gallery's BAT 
Workshop in 1988. At the time Martin van 
der Spuy and subsequently Kate Raalh were 
the instructors who nurtured Witikani 's 

ability and inclination towards life drawing 
using pencil and watercolour, and although 
he enjoyed various other media such as litho, 
screenprinting and sculpture, drawing from 
the human figure remained his first choice. 

In order to pay for his living expenses during 
his second year at BAT, Witikani took a 
morning teaching post at Girls" High. This 
he says was "a hit boring. As an artist you 
need to be in your own home, experimenting 
every day. If you are teaching you are not 
doing your own work." To alleviate the 
boredom Witikani did quick sketches of the 
students while they worked. The speed with 
which these must have been done 
emphasises his ability to catch the curve, 
express the volume, select the indicative 
detail. There is no superfluous line or dot 
and little if any alteration — evidence of a 
perceptive eye and a disciplined hand. 

In 1990, having completed his studies at 
BAT and gained an A for both O level and A 
level art, Witikani decided to take a job at 
Sitra Pottery where he continues to work at 
decorating domestic and functional 
ceramics. Thus he moved back to a rural 
environment in which he feels most at ease 
and where he hoped to have time and space 
to pursue his own painting as well as earn 
a living. Inevitably there is not enough 
time. Witikani sketches every day but 
he has only his daily lunch hour and 
then his weekends to sketch and 
paint. His job at the pottery has, 
however, freed him from the 
damaging necessity of having to 
earn money through his art, the 
circumstance which degrades the 
talent of many Zimbabwean artists 
and turns them into commercial 
painters producing what they know 
will sell. 

Sitra Pottery is situated away from the main 
road along several miles of dirt track, 
through rolling grasslands interspersed with 
woodlands and rocky outcrops. Following 
Witikani to the workers' village along a path 
through darkly green trees, one comes out 
into an open area, a kopje burgeoning with 
rounded boulders and leafy bushes to the 
left, a valley of pale dry grass falling away 
to the right. The pink earth path spreads, 
divides and wanders unevenly between 
scattered assorted dwellings, some mud and 
thatch, some brick and thatch, others with tin 
roofs; grass fences, a few banana trees, some 
chickens scratching in the dust, washing 
draped between two poles. A woman sits in 
the shade with a child on her lap, two others 
stand nearby at a tap gossiping. A child 
rambles along with a wire car. Further away 
a woman bends and hoes a patch of 
vegetables. Sun and shadow create volume 
and colour It is like walking into one of 
Witikani's paintings ... daily life going on in 

an unhurried way — women doing their 
everyday chores, preparing food, sweeping, 
looking after home and children, with their 
share of problems and pleasures. "/ want to 
paint how people are. what they are doing. I 
paint people and nature, how people live in 
their environment" 

Going into Witikani's studio, a traditional 
mud and thatch hut without windows, the 
light from the doorway falls on a pile of 
paintings on heavy brown paper heaped one 
on top of another on the floor, wood for 
frames leaning against a wall, boxes of tubes 
and brushes, some bottles of turps, and a 
collection of sketchbooks. Those books 
contain the foundation of Witikani's work — 
pencil drawings, page after page of quick 
free sketches of people done in the pottery, 
in the village, at home over weekends when 
friends come to talk with his wife, at local 
markets, bus stops, clinics, or drawings of 
the roadside, the boulders and trees. "/ 
sketch from my surroundings. These are the 
people I stay with so when they are there I 
get time to sketch them." 

From these pencil lines, from the 
concentrated and continual looking at the 
human figure and the landscape, the 
paintings are composed. Once he faces the 
large sheet of brown paper with his brushes 
and paints, Witikani is free to cut, combine, 
create his own version of everyday life and it 
is here that his unerring sense of 
composition takes over. 

Richard Witikani's preoccupation is the 
human form, more particularly the female 
form. The majority of his paintings are of 
women, either alone or in small groups, 
placed centrally within the format; some 
look directly at the viewer, others turn aside; 
some are talking, but most are caught up in 
private thought. They are often passive, 
sitting, lying, waiting for someone. 

(above) Richard Witikani, student at Girls' High 
School from a sketchbook, 1989 

Richard Witikani, from sketchbooks 

Witikani says, "Women 's bodies are more 
iitleresling to paint. In women, you have 
ciirres. round forms, heaviness." But there 
is no prettification. These are not subjects 
chosen for sentimental or decorative 
potential but tor their natural and real 
humanity. The treatment is broad and direct, 
imbued with the artist's understanding and 
respect which in turn creates a strong 
presence in each of his subjects. Witikani 
seeks to capture the existing, the nature of 
the female body in its variety and 
universality. Many paintings feature a single 
woman, preoccupied in her solitariness, such 
as Desdymona and Knitting. In others, the 
bond of mother and child is strongly 
portrayed by an interweaving and visual 
combining of the two interdependent forms, 
as in Hunger. Indeed in some works, for 
example in Paying Attention, the body of the 
small child only becomes apparent and 
distinguishable on careful looking. 

There are also a number of paintings 
involving two or three figures. The natural 
groupings and interrelation of the people is 
again expressed in the proximity and the 
rhythm of their bodies. For example in 
Hairdresser I. the three heads are inclined 
towards each other; the child, mother and 
sitter are encompassed in one of several 
circles creating this closely integrated 
composition. The hands of the mother link 
with the hair and head of the sitter; the curve 
of the mother's body absorbs the roundness 
of the child on her back. 

Witikani disposes the weights of the bodies 
and limbs in order to produce a dynamic 
within the compositions. Triangles can be 
discerned in many paintings creating visual 
movement and energy despite their 
sedentary subjects. Although the brushwork 
is free and appears spontaneous, the forms 
are finnly and clearly depicted, due no doubt 
to the painter's skill at drawing and his 
understanding of line. The weight of the 
bodies, sturdy legs and feet, and at times the 
whole prone body as in Siesta, press firmly 
on the ground or seat. This is not a 
superficial rendering but a physically felt 
experience of the body. The hands and arms 
and particularly shoulders speak of ability 
and strength. The faces possess patience, 
acceptance, and though soft and vulnerable, 
portray endurance. 

These robust women seem unconsciously 
composed, as if they are naturally and 
solidly there, regardless of the painter, 
indifferent to the viewer. Only in the 
Reclining Nude is there a consciousness of 
the observing artist and the posed subject. 
The woman is unable to take pride in her 
voluptuous body. This work is based on an 
early life drawing done by Witikani while 
still at the BAT Workshop. It has been 
transformed into sumptuous paint, skillfully 
done, and clearly reveals the artist's pleasure 
in the female curves. 

(top) Richard Witikani, Hunger, 1996, 109 x 84cm, gouache on paper 
(above) Richard Witikani, Hairdresser 1, 1996, 89 x 71cm, oil on paper 

Richard Witikani, 
Waiting at ttie Clinic, 
1996,71 X 88.5cm, 
oil on paper 

mmm ^k 

Richard Witikani's work is free of any 
unnecessary detail. The figure or figures are 
placed within a simple background and the 
painting is built around an intuitively 
worked interplay of horizontals, verticals, 
diagonals, triangles or circles. The internal 
rhythm is always strong, smooth and 
resonant. There are few straight lines or 
geometric forms and where they exist they 
serve to contrast or enhance the volume, 
curve and presence of the subject, such as 
the wall in Woman with Flowers and Waiting 
at tlie Clinic. The rhythm in Wailing at the 
Clinic with the lines and volumes of the two 
outside figures leading the eye in, and the 
echoing shapes of heads, bodies and trees, 
creates a successful composition. Vertical or 
horizontal lines, in a wall, a tree, a chair, 
stabilise the subject and sometimes define or 
frame a space, for example in Hunger and in 
Paying Attention. The surrounds and 
background are always well integrated and 
used to enhance the main subject. Depth is 
naturally indicated with no exaggerations or 
pretensions. There is no romantic excess 
anywhere. There is no falsification. 
Treatment of background and foreground are 
handled in the same way and both negative 
and positive shapes are given eloquence. 
The relation of all these elements to the 
whole creates the unity of structure and 
vision which is essential to a good work of 

And perhaps the strongest integrating force 
is colour. Its use and control is central to 
Witikani's method and expression. He 
makes no colour notes in his sketches and 
freely applies his visual imagination when 
working on a painting. Colours relate to 
other colours in the composition rather than 
to any outside reality. With strong, 
] confident strokes, Witikani decides the way 

in v\hich the colours are distributed across 
the space. Light is seen in terms of colour as 
are shadow and volume. 

For the viewer, often the first impression is 
of coloured patches which then resolve into 
subject. Intuitively and boldly placed blobs 
and strokes of colour re-fomi into flesh and 
cloth; broad homogenous areas create solids 
in space. Colour is used in the clothing to 
emphasise the covered body shapes, 
shadows and highlights creating volume and 
line Occasionally a single line is employed 
to delineate form but more often shape is 
created by colour. Colour is also used to 
decorative effect in the clothing. In Woman 
with Flowers, this decorative element, a 
mass of flowers on a dark bush, creates the 
background for a woman whose blouse links 
her indissolubly with her surroundings. 
Note the use, in many of the works, of the 
saine or a tonally related colour in the 
background and foreground of a painting, 
once again integrating the different elements 
into a cohesive whole. 

Colour is, as well, used expressively to 
conjure atinosphere, the emotion of the 
scene — in Baclicloor Saloon, a city scene, it 
is bright, bold, noisy, scattered; in Hunger, it 
is dull, leeched, pale, sucked out as is the 
woman's breast. 

There is a boldness in Witikani's use of 
colour and a simplicity, with usually only 
three or perhaps four colours making up the 
palette of a single painting. They are chosen 
according to the subject, the composition 
and their interactive relationship within the 
painting. At times the bare brown surface is 
employed, and, so successful is its 
integration, that a closer look is needed to 
confirm that it is in fact unpainted paper. 

This intelligent use of colour may give one 
the impression that Witikani is painting from 
reality, but the cohesion and delight of the 
colour in his work springs from his visual 
imagination and has lessons for those 
Zimbabwean artists who splash on colours 
with no consideration of their effect or 

The landscapes on show present a 
convincing evocation of place. Again 
sparing on detail, cohesive in composition 
and simple in subject, they however offer a 
rich play of colour, deviating from reality in 
more painterly ways. In particular The Red 
Tree is vibrant and dynamic with its dark 
turbulent sky and wind-rushed grass. These 
works are in fact largely imaginative 
compositions founded only on Witikani's 
intimate knowledge of the countryside 
which he inhabits, expressing personal mood 
as well as capturing the essential atmosphere 
of place and season. Paintings of the village 
environment focus on the closeness of man 
to nature and are taken from sketches. 
Witikani sees both as equal partners. "/ 
enjoy the unit}- of the people to the land. We 
live in the land. Man and nature are veiy 
close. It is quite simple. Man affects nature 
and nature ajfects man." Life in the rural 
areas is presented in a straightforward 
manner; it is not sweetened or romanticised; 
neither is it denigrated. 

There is a strength and consistency about 
Richard Witikani's work. His obvious 
knowledge of line and form, his rigorous 
structuring of composition, his honest choice 
of subject and his striking underslaiuling of 
colour, all point to a major talent and a 
mature, independent vision. 

The annual Heritage Exhibition at the National 
Gallery has for many years been an indicator 
of the state of the visual arts in Zimbabwe. 
Anthony Chennells investigates and analyses 
the 1996 offering. 


mplexity and 

Norman Mhondiwa, Comrades War, 1996, 81 x 125cm, 
oil on canvas 

Norman Mhondiwa, Thanking God for Harvest, 1996, 
81 X 125cm, oil on canvas 

Heritage is a word wiiich offers a 
spurious sense of security. 

People invoke their heritage only 
when the discernible movements 
between past and future are 
broken and the present no longer 
anticipates with any certainty 
what will come next. And yet 
the idea of heritage is 
comforting: it invokes a secure 
past amidst present instabilities 
and it is not surprising that the 
most fiercely reactionary 
institution in Washington should 
be called the Heritage 
Foundation or that the periodical 
devoted to white Zimbabwean 
history changed its name at 
Zimbabwe's Independence from 
Rhodesiana to Heritage. 
Instability implicit in the 
affirmation of stability, a 
defensive assertion of roots and 
belonging, provide a point of 
access to the art of this year's 
Heritage Exhibition at the 
National Gallery. 

T.S. Eliot pointed out many 
years ago that each new 
individual work of art extends 
and modifies existing traditions 
and Zimbabwean art. because of 
the very nature of our society, 
shows the traces of numerous 
cultural traditions. Artists can 
respond to this in different ways: 
they can defiantly affirm the 
authenticity of one of those 

cultural strands and insist that it 
is along that strand that 
Zimbabwe's true identity can be 
found. They can also confront 
Zimbabwe's cultural syncretism, 
the implications of the 
intersections of multiple 
traditions of ethnicity, race, 
geographical origin and class in 
our cultural life. When a 
painting or sculpture enacts this 
confrontation something more 
ambitious is being attempted 
than the recovery of an identity 
simplified to race or origin. 

An anecdote from the opening 
of the exhibition may help to 
explain my meaning. I noticed a 
senior civil servant who is a 
socialist theorist of art standing 
with two diplomats from one of 
the few countries in the world 
which still claim to be socialist. 
They were clustered around 
Norman Mhondiwa's Comrades 
War and as I passed I heard one 
of them say. "Tliis is real art" 

The rural landscape of 
Comrades War is rendered with 
the self-conscious naivety which 
has become conventional in one 
genre of Zimbabwean painting. 
The thatched villages, granite 
boulders and scarlet leaves of 
brachystegia woodlands in 
spring provide a background 
not. as is usual in the genre, for 
the routines and multiple 


activities of village life but 
rather for an episode in the war. 
In the centre of the painting a 
crashed Rhodesian plane is in 
flames. Above two more aircraft 
are huming while others drop 
bombs and parachutes. In the 
foreground two women flee with 
an armed guerilla while two 
women in uniform fire towards 
the sky. Other civilian figures 
throughout the painting run in 
panic from the firing. 

I assume thai for the three 
viewers whose comments I 
overheard the purpose of art is lo 
affirm our identity as a 
revolutionary people. Art in the 
service of revolution is central to 
the idea of socialist realism and 
in the armed struggle soldiers, 
proletarians and peasants 
provide the unity of the 
comrades of the title, the equal 
status of their shared humanity 
insisted upon in the art. The 
'reality" which socialist art 
purports to depict is constructed 
by history: 'realism' is where 
the agents of a situation are 
shown playing out the roles 
which history has rendered 
typical of people of their class 
and time. At its most successful 
this theory of art produces the 
wonderful revolutionary murals 
of Maputo. This is not the static 
triumphalist art which is being 
dismantled in disgust all over 
Russia and Eastern Europe. 
Instead it includes anxiety, 
confusion and despair alongside 
hope and triumph as moments 
worth recording in 
Mozambique's Liberation 
War.( I ) 

When the three men had moved 
away I looked more carefully al 
the painting and wondered 
whether in their enthusiastic 
response to a painting which has 
as its subject peasants and war, 
they had noted that it was in fact 
subverting the conventions of 
socialist realism which I have 
briefly indicated. Only in its 
opposition of the humanity of 
the peasants to the dehumanised 
technology of the enemy is a 
conventional point registered. 
In other respects the painting 
refuses socialist-realist 
revolutionary pieties. The 
shooting down of aircraft from 
the sky was atypical in our war 
as it was in any other guerilla 
war — guerilla warfare is not 
1 2 furthered by acts of grand 
defiance against an enemy with 

access to vastly superior 
technology. Mhondiwa's 
peasants, in flight all over the 
painting, appear to lack 
revolutionary firmness and only 
the fleeing women in the 
foreground are accompanied by 
a guerilla. Even more 
unexpected is the fact that only 
women guerillas fire back, a 
curious detail which allows 
gender differences to add 
another confusing element to 
the idea of a united front. 

Why should I have spent such a 
long time on so obviously an 
inferior painting like Comrades 
Warl One reason is because we 
are talking about heritage and 
how the Liberation War is 
recalled as a part of that 
heritage. The war must be 
understood as only one part 
(and because its methods and 
objectives are so obvious, the 
easiest part) of a revolutionary 
process. Frantz Fanon, the 
philosopher of revolutionary 
states of mind, who anticipated 
with eerie accuracy the 
tendencies of Africa's 
independent states, realised as 
early as 1 96 1 that one way of 
repressing discontent after 
independence is to ignore 
present failure and instead to 
keep on recalling the liberation 
war itself. A leader will idealise 
and simplify the struggle and 
"[ejveiy lime he speaks to the 
people he calls to mind his often 
heroic life, the struggles he has 
led in the name of the people 
and the victories in their name 
he has achieved." All this 
Fanon argues is to mystify and 
bewilder the masses so that 
while he "constitutes a screen 
between the people and the 
rapacious bourgeoisie," the 
people will "go on putting their 
confidence in him."(2) If this of the past to justify present 
abuse is, as Fanon implies, an 
inevitable movement in post- 
colonial politics, that is all Ihc 
more reason for artists to deal 
cautiously with their 
representations of the war itself 
Whatever else our heritage 
consists of it should not inckulc 
art which serves the distoiiioiis 
of propaganda. 

As I have suggested I do not 
think that Comrades War can be 
simply dismissed as art serving 
the saniti/ed official memories 
of Zimbabwe for the details of 
Ihe painting do not create a 

Julius Nyamubaya, 
Portrait of a Streetkid, 1996, 
90 X 45cm, oil on canvas 

single narrative whose end is 
ZANU(PF)'s triumph. 
Mhondiwa's other painting on 
the exhibition. Thanking God for 
Harvest, shows the complex 
effects his naive technique is 
capable of achieving. Here the 
community, unified in worship, 
is skilfully suggested in Ihe 
repetition of faces in Ihe lines of 
the worshipping group. The 
viewer's eye is directed towards 
two mbiras, the instrument 
which more even than the drums 
provides a ritual link between 
the Shona, the ancestors and 
God. The circle of the mbiras 
recalls the curves of the faces, 
the gathered faces are justified 
in the mbiras, and both are 
echoed in the curves of granite 
boulders: the community 
through its traditional ritualistic 
instruments is unified both w ith 
one another, with the land and 
with God. At the same time, 
there are people to whom Ihe 
ceremony means nothing, and at 
the front of the painting a group 
gambles, oblivious of the ritual 
being enacted behind them. 

Two other paintings on Ihe 
exhibition suggest how art can 
be used lo make different 
statements about politics — 
about who has public power and 
how it is used and abused. 
Every new painting one sees by 
Stephen Williams is an 
additional reason for mourning 
his untimely death and his The 
Fall of the Sybarites is no 
exception. Here a steel panel 
lias apparently been scored 
.icioss as if the shining surface 
has been vandalised. A longer 
look shows both red and rust 
which Ihe scoring has 
uncovered. Williams had a 
Marxist background and the 
steel for me consliuiles a visual 
pun on Ihe associations between 
steel and dictatorships whether 
in Ihe name of the proletariat or 
nol: the claims to absoliile 
aulhority, Ihe purity of ideal 
political systems, inflexible 
delcrminalion, detachmeni from 
human weakness. As an aspirant 
diclalor .loseph Djugash\ili look 
as his nom de guerre Stalin — 
steel. Most socialist 
governmenis of this century 
justified aulhoritarianism by 
claiming lo speak on behalf of 
Ihc people whose historic 
destiny they were helping lo 
fulfil; most, in the last decade, 
after Iheir inevitable collapse, 
were show n to ha\c been 

facades erected to conceal the 
corruption at the heart of their 
various systems. The graffiti- 
like scores suggest a popular 
anger which cuts through the 
faijade to reveal, in rust and 
blood, political authority as self- 
serving and self-indulgent, as 
sybaritic in fact. 

If Williams's painting is a 
general statement about political 
authority. Richard Witikani's 
The News is more local in its 
referents, which constitutes part 
of its strength. Witikani's 
drawing becomes more deft with 
each new painting and here it 
creates the heaviness of the legs 
of two male figures which 
dominate the left-hand side of 
the painting and which conveys 
a contradictory sense of bored 
idleness and virility. The figures 
have not been painted as an end 
in themselves as they have been 
in so much of his previous work. 
Instead they compete for 
attention with the headlines of 
the papers which the young men 
are reading with the white and 
black of the paper insisting on 
their equal status with the other 
colours of the painting. The 
news, however, does not distract 
with hope or purpose or. in our 
context of jobless youth, with 
promises of employment. 
Instead the headlines refer to 
AIDS as if the only news 
contained in the papers is a 
guarantee of despair. Other texts 
referring to feeding schemes and 
breast feeding are on the 
periphery of the painting 
suggesting that attention to the 
health of children is rendered 
futile by the AIDS pandemic. A 
poster inviting voters to support 
Margaret Dongo is dimly visible 
and I wonder whether this is 
intended to suggest any 
alternative political initiative has 
little meaning in the context of 
AIDS. Part of the painting's 
power derives from the way in 
which the various verbal texts 
are re-enforced through the 
tension between the masculine 
figures and a group of much less 
precisely drawn female figures 
to the right. Only one woman's 
eyes are turned half-invitingly 
towards the men — the rest look 
away. Beneath one of the men's 
shoes a newspaper headline 
announces with words that serve 
as an alternative title to the 
painting: 'AIDS weakens the 
virile ones." 


Stephen Williams, Fall of the Sybarites (detail), 
1996, 150 X 121cm, mixed media 

Richard Witikani, Ttie News (detail), 1996, 102 x 183cm, 
oil on paper 

Witikani takes his place 
alongside Fasoni Sibanda and 
Luis Meque as artists who have 
enabled us to see in a new way 
life in high density suburbs and 
communal lands. The insights 
which their art has offered us are 
now a part of our heritage in the 
most positive sense of the word. 
Hilary Kashiri stands beside 
them and can be seen to have 
developed the tradition which 
they have given to. His 
Commuter Rank 11 is a 
nightmare vision of the crowded 
inner city. There is little to 
console in the lurid colours and 
human figures are barely 
discernible. Squares and circles 
dominate referring to the shapes 
of the vehicles at the rank while 
at the same time suggesting a 
world dominated by technology 
so that urban humanity is largely 
alienated from itself. The idea 
of an alienating city is taken up 
in the more schematic Portrait 
of a Street Kid by Julius 
Nyamubaya where a person's 
head can be made out amidst a 
composition of lines and circles 
in colours which are glaringly 

One of the more unattractive 
parts of Zimbabwe's visual 
inheritance is an art which 
attempted to interpret our 
landscapes in the conventions of 
the European romantic sublime. 
Often such paintings claim to be 
of Nyanga and they show blue- 
peaked mountains more alpine 
than African, lush green 
foregrounds and the inevitable 
red of musasa trees. Mercifully 
such paintings are excluded 
from this exhibition although, in 
a curious colonial distortion of 
how we see our world, black 
artists are beginning to peddle in 
the streets imitations of these 
mendacious accounts of the 
land. One of the many debts we 
owe to Robert Paul is that he 
explored, and many of his 
paintings accurately depict, both 
the colours and shapes of 
Nyanga. In this exhibition Paul 
Wade returns us to the particular 
range of our seasonal colours 
with his two oils Seasonal 
Changes I and Seasonal 
Changes II. In the first the earth 
at the end of a good rainy season 
provides a thin panel which 
divides the painting into two: on 
one side the colours of 
Zimbabwe's clear winter skies: 
on the other side the dust i o 

between the rains. Sky and 

(above) Paul Wade, Seasonal Changes 1, 1996, 150 x 246cm, 
oil on canvas 

(middle) Paul Wade, Seasonal Changes II, 1996, 150 x 246cm, 
oil on canvas 

(below) Maria Ndandarika, Waiting in Vain, 1996, approx 
48 X 48 X 40cm, opalstone 


earth dominate the canvas as 
they do our lives for so much of 
the year. In Seasonal Changes 
II Wade uses the same idea of 
vertical divisions as the basic 
construct of the painting. Here 
he adds to the natural tones, 
colours which have other 
culturally relative associations. 
The rainy season panel here 
moves from green and brown 
into brown, purple and pink 
which can be read as blossom or 
as the riches of the earth. This is 
followed by a lovely piece of 
painting of the sky, the rich blue 
paling at the edges as the winter 
sky does. This is replaced by 
the largest of all the panels 
where dust shades into earth 
colour before the concluding 
panel which is of deep red and 
blue, satisfyingly suggesting a 
concluding richness to this 

Our oldest and most ubiquitous 
artistic inheritance is of course 
the rock paintings which appear 
throughout Zimbabwe's granite 
areas. A vague and distorted 
impression of thein has been 
appropriated by the tourist trade 
to decorate batik and pottery but 
they have to my knowledge 
never been successfully used in 
serious art. In this exhibition, an 
attempted testimony to the early 
artists, is Obert Muringani's 
Original Painters. However 
much one welcomes the attempt, 
one has to see it as failure. 
Muringani has painted onto 
three pieces of hide, stitched 
together. That the original 
community of artists has been 
destroyed is suggested both in 
the torn hide and in the absence 
of any whole figures in the work 
for only human torsoes arc 
depicted together with the faint 
outline of a giraffe. This 
comment on the vanished artists 
remains at the level of 
affirmation rather than 
something which has been 
realised in the work it.sclf. The 
original art with very few 
exceptions is an art which 
signifies through outline and in 
the way outlines relate to one 
another. Muringani has rejected 
the challenges of this technique 
by moulding the thigh, buttocks 
and breasts ol his figures so they 
more closely resemble 
contemporary figure paintmg 
than the art which he implicitly 
claims as inspiration. There is 
always the possibility that I am 
missing the point and (he 

painting operates through an 
irony that allows echoes of the 
ancient and new art to compete 
in the viewer's imagination. 

Perhaps we should not try to 
reproduce a vanished art 
especially one which is so 
obviously the product of a 
hunter-gatherer society. Coming 
from an infinitely more complex 
economic system, we cannot 
reproduce the spirit of the old 
art. The artist who more than 
any other on the exhibition 
enacts a confrontation with this 
multiply faceted economic 
present (if confrontation is not 
too strong a word for so gentle 
an artist) is Thakor Patel. His 
companion pieces Summer 
Cloud and Winter Cloud show 
him in a characteristically 
playful mood with an assortment 
of objects painted on the two 
canvases as if set up for a 
memory test. But because it is 
Thakor Patel controlling the 
images, the apparently random 
representations are located with 
a mathematical precision which 
is confirmed in the exactness of 
both the drawing and the way in 
which paint has been applied. 
The summer of the tlrst painting 
is suggested in a Ndebele love- 
stick, brightly coloured beads 
being strung to cover the wood, 
a hint of a deck chair, kites and 
other mobiles flying, the sun- 
touched cloud of the title which 
is also half-curtain raised to 
reveal parallel lines which 
suggest the agricultural potential 
of a ploughed field. A panga 
blade glints with light. Cloud, 
field, sunlight may be natural 
objects and love a natural 
passion but Patel makes no 
attempt to register them 
realistically. In fact we see them 
as painted before we think of 
their literal referents. In the case 
of the love-stick, the key trope 
in the painting, we see it as 
artefact in the making before we 
register its associations. 
.Similariy the lines at the bottom 
of the painting are noted as a 
Irame helbre their alternative 
referent as ploughed field is 
recognised. In Winter (Imul ihe 
framing lines are now at I he lop 
of the painting suggesting 
ceiling hoards and from them 
Ihe kites and mobiles hang, 
disabled by the season. The 
clouds have the colour of the 
guli clouds of July although 
again they arc draped like 
curtains and their artificialitv is 

further insisted upon in fasteners 
which secure the cloud-curtain 
folds — wittily suggesting the 
need to button-up against the 
cold. The button on the summer 
cloud is frivolously decorated 
with beading so that it is hardly 
functional as fastener. Only the 
blade of the panga is repeated. I 
have no objection to a didactic 
art — both The News and 
Tluinking God for Hanest have 
didactic elements in them and 
they are the linear descendants 
of Shona oracy which sees its 
purpose in its capacity to correct 
and direct. But art can also 
satisfy by being retle.xive, by 
considering the processes which 
have gone into its making. One 
aspect of that process for 
Zimbabwean painters is the 
influences which we are subject 
to and which Patel refers to: we 
know both Ndebeie bead-work 
and the clean lines and colours 
with which David Hockney 
celebrates southern California's 
light and leisure. One recalls 
Klee and Miro in PateFs kites 
and mobiles but the colour of the 
.soil, the winter and summer 
clouds are entirely Zimbabwean. 
The panga, that ambiguous 
instrument of violence and 
agriculture, denies the 
possibility of any simple 
response to either season. 

Heritage if it is a positive 
concept must be about both the 
past and the future. Our 
younger artists will make a 
heritage for future generations 
but they will do that only if they 
retain a creative integrity in the 
face of the demands of the 
market place. We all know what 
has happened to our stone 
sculpture: endless, increasingly 
inferior reproductions of once 
brilliant ideas so that even in the 
National Gallery one greets with 
mistrust each carved stone one 
comes across. (3) It was only 
after several visits to the 
exhibition that I recognized how 
superbly Maria Ndandarika's 
Waiting In Vain manages to 
convey a sense of anticipation, 
resignation and despair with an 
extraordinary economy of line. 
In every interior-decorating shop 
in Harare we see the insulting 
attempts to copy Arthur 
Azevedo's metal sculptures. 
Stiff birds in black-painted 
metal, hammered into 
uniformity so that the very 
notion of 'scrap' is lost, bear as 
much relation to Azevedo's 

exploration of the shape and 
movement of bird and beast as a 
feather duster represents an 
ostrich. Harry's 
Pregnancy Pain shows, 
however, that there are exciting 
young sculptors around. There 
is no attempt to disguise the 
scrap which has gone to the 
making of the figure and the 
pain of the title is suggested as 
much by the distortions of the 
figure as in the functional 
unconnectedness of the various 
pieces: no part of the body 
relates mechanically with any 
other part. One glance shows 
the figure headless and the head 
in the groin is the new birth; a 
second glance shows the head 
bent in agony towards the groin, 
the new birth still invisible. 
Ishmael Wilfred won the Mobil 
Overall Award of Distinction for 
Painting and requires no praise 
from me except to note the 
freshness of his palette and the 
manner in which his movement 
into the supernatural links with 
some of the best of the original 
stone sculpture. 

Heritage becomes positive then 
when we know that our present 
activity is creating something of 
value for future generations. It 
becomes more valuable when it 
does not try to avoid complexity 
and contradiction but rather 
confronts them, confident that 
out of their resolution will grow 
the new complexity of what is 
yet to come. 


1 . Much of this art has been 
destroyed but something of its 
quality can be judged from Albie 
Sachs. Images of a Revolution: 
Mural Art in Mozambique 
(Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing 
House, 1983). 

2. Frantz Fanon. The Wretcljed of 
tlie Eartli. 1961: trans. Constance 
Parrington 1965 

( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 
edn). pl35. 

3. An excellent analysis of the 
market to which the stone 
sculpmre has been directed is 
Carol Pearce, "The Myth of 
'Shona Sculpture'". Zambezia 
(1993). XX, ii.pp85-I07. 

(above) Thakor Patel, Summer Cloud, 1996, 
91 X 57.5cm, watercolour 

(below) Thakor Patel, Winter Cloud, 1996, 
91 X 57.5cm, watercolour 


Painting tine essence: 

the harmony and equilibrium of Thakor Pate! 


Contemplation of the culture one is born into, 

the culture one is educated into 

and the cultures experienced in daily living 

can culminate in synthesis and a deep fusion. 

Barbara Murray looks at the work of a philosophical artist 

The English word 'inspiration' comes from the Latin verb inspirare, 

to breathe in. It is an appropriate description of the process of the 

artist. Thakor Patel, who creates his paintings by assimilating, 

refining and defining his experience of his immediate surroundings. 

Patel's work is not a reahstic portrayal but rather an interpretation 

through colour and symbol. He searches with a finely tuned 

awareness and then distills an experience, expressing only the Thakor Patel, 

essential elements. Untitled (Cuxhaven), 

1996, approx. 150 x 300cm, 
mixed media 

A very direct example of this can be deciphered in a recent work. 
Untitled {Cuxhaven). which was commissioned by a company that 
operates a fishing business in Cuxhaven. Germany. Patel focuses on 
the experience of being in that city. Two lines of subtly changing 
colour, imbued with motion by an arrowhead, enter the canvas, 
representing the two rivers that meet in Cuxhaven. Mountains that 
surround the area are depicted by a single triangle in shaded greys. 
Below it is another, inverted, triangle of clear green-blue water with 
fish and bird crossing, their curving shapes evoking their movement. 
Centrally placed is a large circle of sunset and above it a slither of 
moon. To the left boldly coloured strips represent the canvas 
awnings of the harbour area. Smaller objects include another fish 
drying, a fiag. a planet, housing. All this in a surround of blues. 
These emblems of a place, of the experience of being in that place, 
are drawn and coloured with delicacy, precision, a surety and 
lightness of touch, leaving space for the viewer to wander and 
expand the concepts within his or her own mind. The positioning of 
the diverse elements, the use of colour, line and shape, all combine 
to keep the eye moving across the surface and in and out of visually 
created areas. The painting is a carefully structured balance of parts 
in a satisfying whole. 

The artist explains: 

"From nature you can see lots of different things. I feel, myself, I 
learned from nature, the colour sense, harmony, tones. Also 
textures, shapes, lines. Like in nature, all things work together to 
make a beautiful painting." 

While recently staying with a family in Germany who are accom- 
plished musicians with a particular love of the compositions of 

Beethoven and Bach, Patel created paintings inspired by the music 
that filled that environment. Again only a precise selection of 
evocative elements and colours are used allowing the imagination to 
be drawn in. In Untitled (Homage to Beethoven) the clear fine lines 
of sheet music are employed as the basic structure with the bottom 
line of each set rendered in multiple shaded hues. Perfect black 
notes and other musical symbols seemingly scattered but in fact 
precisely placed across the page, lift away from the lines, giving the 
effect of musical sound and movement. The swelling curve of a 
piano is used, as well as arcs of pencil line and two ribbons of 
graded colour, to create a body for the lightness. A single larger 
circle of vibrant red represents that explosion of response one feels 
to strong musical climax. Patel says "Music is colour'' He wonders 
however why musicians only use black and white to write music. 
"Why not colour?" The dominant colours in Untitled (Homage to 
Beethoven) are appropriately passionate and potent, red, green, 
purple and black, yet disciplined by the white space and by the 
exacting structure of the fine lines and musical notes. 

Another musically based work. Untitled (Homage to Bach), is 
centred on a page of music written by the composer which is 
collaged onto the canvas and combined with notes, musical nota- 
tions, colours, simplified indications which lead, through the eyes, to 
the inner listening imagination. Here, in concord with Bach's music, 
the symbols are lighter and more playfully disposed; the colours are 
more measured, more delicate, with a vertical strip rising from a 
clear blue through pinks and oranges to a translucent lightness. 

The German family's house was highly ordered, mainly white with 
some pale wood and black furniture, very little colour. Again 


(left) Thakor Patel, Untitled 
(Homage to Beethoven), 1996, 
176 X 130cm, oil on canvas 

(right) Thakor Patel, Untitled 
(Homage to Bach), 1996, 
140 X 88cm, oil on canvas 

(below) Thakor Patel, Untitled, 
1984, 70 X 57cm, watercolour 


affected by his environment. Patel began to work with large white 
canvases broken only by one or two strips of pale texture or shadow, 
some faint regular pencil lines. "Why not [mini colour or design on 
a door for example. Not too complicated hut in a simple way. why 
not make lines, or scratch it out. or make a colour?" Several large 
recent canvases are just such 'doors', a white expanse with some 
colour, lines or texture to light them up. 

When Patel travels, experiences, elements, colours, textures, are 
absorbed and digested to be later composed into paintings. "Every- 
thing is a symbol for something": a mountain, a road sign, reflections 
in water, a shell, the moon. Small details are reminiscent of objects 
seen, music heard, impressions gained, now aligned and contrasted, 
drawn together to recreate his experience. "When I see some things I 
know that I can combine them to make a beautiful artwork. I take a 
blank canvas and I just experiment comes out. I don 'I really 
do sketches. Ideas, pictures, colours, feelings are stored in my head. 
I collect, combine and work it out." 

"/ want to be myself. Whatever I feel. I must do it. It doesn 't matter. 
Germany or Africa or wherever, or India or America, whatever I 
feel, wherever I live. I paint. Now I am in Africa for example. I must 
do Africa, in a different way. but it should he me. not other things. I 
fight with my creativity. Creativity is something, it is the opposite of 
death. My creativity is fighting with death. I make new life. I don 't 
know how to explain that through words. You have to mark some- 
thing when you are on the earth. Mark your existence. To create 
something different. I have a lot of capacity to create different 
things. If I take anything I can create. I am not physically strong. I 
cannot do anything that way. But through creativity I can do it. I 
can take anything, a piece of wood and do things with it that will 
make a beautiful work of art. You must have guts to do something 
with life." 

contributory factor in the final purpose which is always to attain a 
sense of equilibrium that goes far beyond the extent of a single 
canvas to become a metaphor fin- human relationships: equilibrium 
threatened, on a knife edge, and finally attained." 

In fact I think that the metaphor goes further than human relation- 
ships to encompass the concept of life as a whole. The Eastern 
philosophy, on which Thakor Patel's outlook is based, conceives of 
life as a continuing attempt to attain harmony through the reconcilia- 
tion and balancing of the diverse elements of existence. 

Talking about his work. Patel says: 

'■/ like the philosophical way. For example, when I see in nature, 
some leaves fall down on the ground. I must think. When I see a 
flower, smell its scent, I feel we have to take its essence. Not exactly 
the whole flower. You can 't explain what smell is. You know. But 
the essence I take from that. That's how I think of my work, as 
philosophical painting. Simplest statement. Now. because of 
African and Indian culture, my paintings are still simple but more 

"I find it hard to explain. Sometimes I ciy inside. I know myself hut 
I cannot say. I cannot talk even in my own language. My drawback 
is from the society where I grew up. I didn 't get much chance to 
learn and because of society pressures. I couldn 7 get a chance to 
state any things openly. Keep quiet all the time. They used to 
threaten me. Because of fear Still I have fear. If you ask me, speak 
openly about someone. I can 't. Because they have pressured me so 
much in childhood. Only now I realise why I am like that. In 
Germany now they tell children they must say 'no' if that is what 
they feel. Don't say 'yes' anyway. And I agree with that, children 
should say 'no 'first and 'why ', arguing, and they learn. But I got 
never chance to sax 'no'." 

"My favourite painter is Matisse. Fantastic. Brillicmt. He knows 
exactly what to put in a painting. Making systems of compositions. 
Those cut-outs are wonderfid. simplified. Simple is very important 
for me. When you know much more about some things, it depends 
upon the artist, but I like to make veiy simple slalenwuts instead of 
so many things to combine. I feel it is very hard to make a simple 
statement with a space, like for e.xample. a Joan Miro. It's a huge 
canvas, just one dot and it is a painting and a lot of feeling in that." 

Patel says that no-one can touch the old masters; that the intricate 
detail in Indian paintings is beautiful. The artists were given time 
and payment so they could just paint everything. Indian artists have 
their own system of perspective, form and space. Principles of both 
that Eastern perspective theory and modernist Western spatial 
method are used by Thakor Patel to create a unique sense of space 
and distance within his own canvases. His work Untitled (1984), 
plays with both the known flatness of the canvas and with three- 
dimensional illusion, with stillness and movement. The surface is 
made up of myraid spattered dots precisely controlled in size and 
tone to create vertical strips of colour which interact and relate. 
There is a sense that some strips are static, others only momentarily 
so. while the fine black lines and larger colour spots give the 
impression of moving or being about to move as you look at them. 
As the eye scans up the strips, some appear to shift from the front to 
the back of the surface. It is an experience captured in the mid,st of 
change from one state of existence to another — a momentary 
balance which depends on the precise manipulation of line, shape, 
size, distance and, above all, colour. 

In her catalogue essay for Patel's solo exhibition at the National 
Gallery of Zimbabwe in 1989. Margaret Garlake wrote: 

"His overriding preoccupation is with the play of colour: to push one 
against another that denies it, then to separate them with a third 
which negates the confiict: to clothe complementarities in identical 
fonns and thus to question their relationship: to articulate the 
surface with irresolvable spatial dilemmas. And this is only a 

"/ believe in the spirit, inside, the power But not in church, like 
people who go and pray and tomorrow more corruption and then go 
back to church and pray. If you work hard, if you are honest, it will 
work, something. It 's me lunv. It is my experience now. Because I 
work hard now some people will like my painting, not because of 
God. People have lost faith. They used to see what was going on. 
We are too materialist now — money, money, money. All is busi- 
ness. Too many businessmen. Sometimes there is a businessman 
with a good soul who can see." 

"I like to make a simple statement, maybe a line only on the canvas, 
nothing else. I want to go in the more simplest things now. For 
example, one line, it 's a painting. How you utilise that line on the 
canvas. Bricks, for example, you cent use in a simple, different way. 
You don 't have to make it exactly the brick. Simplicity. Beautiful 
different grading with pencil. Only white, a line and a colour It can 
be beautifid. I enjoy to make forms. I play. I like the work of 
Kandinsky, the different forms." 

Life for Thakor Patel has not been easy — a difficult childhood in 
which self expression was not allowed, the loss of his leg in his 
youth, little education and few chances for employment: fabric 
design and printing, some teaching, a large family and the attendant 
financial worries. Yet his paintings express a great affirmation of 
life. The first works Patel exhibited in Harare were personal and 
agonised, black ink drawings involving interpretations of the body, 
allowing insight into the feelings of a crippled person. These were 
followed by larger clear-coloured and delicately shaded sprayed-on 
watercolours in which there was a sensitive delight in the environ- 
ment. Then for a period. Eastern mysticism with its use of symbols 
and the spiritual philosophy of his Indian heritage became pervasive 
in his work. This symbolism has now expanded and become secular. 
Thakor Patel's paintings give us a window into a uniquely joyful 
world. They enable us to experience beauty by transforming the 
myriad confusion into distilled forms, concentrated colours and 
essential elements. They give us those moments of harmony and i q 

equilibrium that we seek for in the chaos of life. 


^ WW' 

Earth — Water — Fire, recent works by 
Berry Bickle, Gallery Delta, November/ 
December 1996 

This exhibition of new work by Berry Bickle offers a 
quiet, allusively rich and contemplative variety, 
layered with historical references, charged with the 
implications of repression and decay, and expressive 
of contemporary human existence in Africa. It 
reveals a fascination with nature, texture and graffiti, 
employed to create subtle poetry, drama and 
theoretical constructs. The work is enhanced by 
natural fibres, hand-made paper, dried red chillies and 
images that conjure up intrigue. 

Berry Bickle allows no boundaries between art and its 
environment. She engages the environmental 
framework through both literal and conceptual 
strategies. The main space at Delta is set up as a 
mise-en-scene with a large installation. Earth. Water. 
Fire, encompassing three porcelain vessels, delicately 
glazed and inscribed with handwriting marks, 
positioned in their simple iron stands directly in front 
of a large script on Fabriano paper, stained, seemingly 
aged, and fraught with an illegible message. 

Three of the works, A Carta de Caspar Veloso I, II, 
and /// use maps and writings to revive awareness of 
the history of colonialism, reminding the spectator of 
museum specimens. 

The second long narrow room presents two different 
systems of communication, art and books, that meet 
in a confrontation if not an actual challenge. The four 
books in porcelain are slotted into iron plinths, 
countered on either side by a metallic-medium 
painting with incised, subdued and tonal graffiti. The 
viewer is caught in a revealing dialogue between the 
two elements in a dramatic but simultaneously 
intimate moment. Titled Once Were Words, this work 
makes one feel that these objects are more than 
material and volume, rather they form an integrating 
element, closed books, books without words. 

Following this is an area where water predominates as 
the vibrant force. One can penetrate this space in 
order to identify with nature and the soothing 
prominent blue colour, and pause in front of an 
installation oi Sea Scapes. Three plates hang on the 
wall, connected horizontally, and connected vertically 
to a blue-stained book, in a symbolic formation of the 
Southern Cross. Below stands a blue tub filled with 
water accompanied by an old, broken, blue chair with 
colonial inferences in its intricate wrought-iron 
elegance. Here the elements become intertwined 
making the spectator teel a need to re-acquire what is 
being lost, a need to return to nature. 

The next room draws one in through its focal point — 
hanging from the ceiling, suspended and upside- 
down, a wounded bicycle. This construction 
reinvents one facet of the "world" of this artist. From 
the initial stages of Berry Bickle's art career, the 
bicycle has been present in her work. In an early 
triptych, the Virgin was riding a bicycle surrounded 
by chickens. Later, there were linear mechanical 
drawing studies of bicycles. Today the bicycle has 
become a skeletal hanging form, wrapped up, 
bandaged, creating an atmosphere of ominous decay. 
It is accompanied on one side by a blackened metal 
bin containing the remnants of burnt debris, and on 


the other, by a broken African terracotta pot filled 
with ashes. This installation is entitled Urn- cmd 

As a contrast. Divine Fact, a mixed media work on 
Cartolina paper, portrays the typical Renaissance 
Madonna and Child surrounded by numerous red 
chillies and swathed in translucent hand-made paper 
which lends a mystical air. Despite being confined 
within her own architectural space which enhances 
the ecclesia.stical quality, she gives an enigmatic 
impression of vulnerability. 

Smaller works are integrated according to their 
chosen themes: fragments of deserted buildings, 
relics, ancient scripts, becoming reflections that 
sustain a deep melancholy of time. They incorporate 
the ingenuity of vision with the despair of lived 

This exhibition underlines Berry Bickle"s standing as 
one of Zimbabwe's most noteworthy artists. It 
demonstrates how perseverence, ambition and 
progression become a quest, and how expression 
penetrates, and explores, and is capable of its own 
reconfiguration. Helen Lieros 

(above) Berry Bickle, A 
Carta de Caspar Veloso I 

(right) Berry Bickle, 
Law and Order 



Stephan Jost, 
The Ultimate Eggs- 
H-aggeration (detail) 

10th Annual VAAB Exhibition, 
National Gallery in Bulawayo, 
December/January 1996 

The Annual Visual Artists Association of 
Bulawayo (VAAB) Hxhibition has painted a 
new picture about Bulawayo artists and the 
quality and diversity of their work since its 
inauguration 10 years ago. Initially 
representing a few artists. VAAB has 
become an identification tag for Bulawayo's 
artistic talent. This year's show told a story 
of endurance and determination by the over 
100 artists who particiated. 

In a variety of media: cloth, wood, paper, 
batik, and even eggs, soil and metal, and 
covering a wide range of themes, the works 
on show were pregnant with meanings and 
feelings. The restriction of three entries per 
artist paid off in helping refine the selection. 
"What we enjoyed was thai we zoomed in on 
the number of entries which was a chanj^e 
from the tradition when artists could brini> 
in any number of entries. We had decided to 
allow for only three. Within that number the 
artists produced fantastic stuff so that the 
selectors had a difficult task." said one of 
the selectors, artist and Acting Director of 
the National Gallery in Bulawayo, Voti 
Thebe. "In future I foresee that we would 
need to narrow down the entries further to 
come up with the cream'' 

Originality, innovation and "something with 
a punch" which was sought by the selectors, 
was evident in most of the works displayed. 
Despite there being no awards, the annaul 
exhibition is a boost for local talent, and 
household names like Mary Davies, Tomy 
Ndebele, Gail Altnian. Lauryn Amott. 
Telephone Bedza and Susan Elizabeth 
Coulson, some of whom are founder- 
members of VAAB, made a strong 
impression in the painting section. Even 
new members found a niche, like Sithabile 
Mlotshwa, an upcoming abstract artist with 
an affinity for culturally based themes. Her 
mi,\ed-media piece, Wamuhlu. Muntu. 
captures the essence of African women. 


There were some thought-provoking 
ixiintings such as Thousands of Rwanda 
Rcfuf^ees have Fled Kikumha Camp, 25km 
North ofGoma by Malaki Ndlovu in which 
he portrays the frustration and fatigue of 
refugees caught in political tumoil. Oil on 
canvas works by Mzilikazi-based Gulso 
Mutombo, originally from Zaire, though 
interpreted as naive by selectors, have 
substance. The theme of human strife was 
further carried in Stuart Phiris mixed-media 
Civil War. while Anne Siinone Mutton's 
Family Ride in aquacryl attests to her love of 
family life, laughter and togetherness. 

Although there were poor entries in the 
sculpture category which Thebe said 
suffered the most rejections because of lack 
of originality, sculptors in wood, stone and 
metal could not be left out. Despite the 
overduplication of stone work, pieces in 
serpentine by Moffat Chitaunhike, Collin 
Chitaka and Precious Sikhulile Sibanda 
demonstrated notable creativity. Sheunesu 
Shuinba's Dancing Traditional Lovers 
dazzled the eye, as did Phinos Tizvigoni's 
wood pieces. Marriage 's Main Problem and 
Three Suffering. Rashid Jogee revealed his 
abstract expressionism in a sandstone piece. 
Obelisk, which bears some anatomical 
features. Danisile Ncube submitted two 
entires Caring Mother and Bull Face both of 
which reflected his dexterity with the angle 
grinder and the welding rod. And, strikingly 
different in the sculpture category was 
Stefan Jost's work entitled The Ultimate 
Eggs-H-aggeration which employs steel 
rods, ostrich eggs and a red earth 

For the discerning designer, th re was 
Tendai Ncube's Guinea Fowl uvo-piece 
outfit in batik, a medium whic i was widely 
used through the exhibition. 

VAAB is currently the only existing visual 
artists" association in Zimbabwe after the 
Harare association went defunct many years 
ago. Chairman of VAAB. Rashid Jogee. 
says the major achievement of VAAB in the 
10 years of its existence has been to bring 
artists together It endeavours to ej'.courage 
and promote art, and also to educate artists 
about practical issues such as copyright and 
marketing. In previous years, the VAAB 
annual has travelled to Botswana where it 
achieved good sales and according to 
Rashid, plans are to take it to Harare and 
throughout the country. The future for 
VAAB looks very bright. This lOth annual 
exhibition shows the importance thai local 
artists attach to creativity. While writers 
speak through their words, artists paint, draw 
and sculpt. The work on this exhibition is 
the legacy of the artists of Bulawayo. It is 
llie loasl in the celebration of art in 
Bulawayo. which as a city is increasingly 
enhancing its reputation as a cultural centre. 
Busani Bafana 

Explorations — Transformations, 
Gallery Delta, November 1996 

"We never knew 

such works existed." was the amazed 
comment of many visitors to the show of 
contemporary visual art exhibited at Gallery 
Delta in November. Helen Lieros had asked 
some of Zimbabwe's prominent artists to 
consider their past work, their beginnings 
and developments, and to produce a 
piece for this exhibition. Explorations 
— Transformations, subtitled: an 
insight into the artists and their work 

Arthur Azevedo. a school teacher and artist. 
Hilary Kashiri. George Churu, Crispen 
Matekenya and Greg Shaw were among the 
20 artists who had their work on display. I 
.searched around the garden endeavouring to 
have a chat with one or two of the artists and 
it was then thit 1 bumped into the young 
painter, Hilary Kashiri. After exchanging 
the business of that day, he pointed out 
Crispen Matekenya in a nearby crowd. 
Matekenya was busy talking to an eager 
group of listeners, from tired cynical 
journalists to his former school-mates who 
wished him every success. Because of his 
good sense of humour, Matekenya is always 
at the centre of the crowd. I asked him to 
show me his work on the exhibition. We 
entered the first room and I immediately saw 
the Baboon Chair (see Contents page). My 
instinct told me it was Matekenya's work. I 
couldn't resist the temptation of laughing. I 
tried to suppress it but what I was gazing at 
made me want to burst into tears of laughter 
My wish was to touch the wood and caress 
it. I felt my cynicism crumbling down to a 
deep felt sentiment, my senses of sight, 
touch, pathos, were affected. For me the 
piece is not only humorous but an apparent 
revelation of the artist's nostalgia for the 
Shona ethos, customs and virtues. It serves 
the tradition of Shona myths, the 
supernatural/natural creature, 
metamorphosis, in a visual interpretation of 
mythology: the baboon is a link between the 
spirit world and the living, as well as a 
symbol of wisdom and deep knowledge; the 
chair is a symbol of chieftanship. 

I then came across a piece by Greg Shaw, a 
cool, slow-talking painter, a sculpture/ 
painting titled A Private World. And I stood 
there gloating over it, thinking about the 

Arthur Azevedo, The Last Bird 

'private world', a place of quiet, calm and 
tranquility. Who would not admire such a 

Passing into the next room of the exhibition 
I saw that there were paintings all about, 
standing there, and there, rather as pieces 
stand on a chessboard when it is half-way 
through a game. They were lovely 
paintings. Some were human portraits like 
Pip Curling's five paintings Jackson, 
Juliana, Joe. Mike and Idah. This work is 
easier for indigenous laymen to identify with 
and understand. 

The air in the gallery was a hubbub as 
stimulated people discussed the art around 
them. George Churu who had his work on 
display said: "// is about time the formal art 
world in Zimbabwe recognised that there is 
far more art out there than is hanging on its 
cold stone walls. For that alone this 
exhibition is welcome." 

The work on view was shattering in its 
impact; vital, robust, with an economy of 
line and curve, a loving coaxing of material 
to show its inner strength. At this point I 
realised there was no need to talk to the 
artists. What I had seen satisfied not only 
the eye but the whole being, the mind etc. 
What the gallery offered was an exciting 
reflection of Zimbabwean contemporary 
visual art. I savoured my last sip of 
lemonade drink and walked into the pleasant 
black night, my stressful day long forgotten. 
Stanley Karombo 

New galleries 

Two more venues have been added to the 
map of Harare's art scene. 

Doreen Sibanda's Gallery Mutupo, the inore 
central of the two, was launched at the end 
of January. The inaugural exhibition. Earth 
Elements for Art I, featured the sculpture of 
Joseph Muzondo. amid paintings by Voti 
Thebe and Itayi Njagu, and Sibanda intends 
to supplement shows of contemporary art 
with the sale of artefacts and African 
clothing and textiles. 

The variety and quality (Muzondo's Man of 
Authority, for instance, and Njagu 's 
Township Restaurant) of the opening 
exhibition augur well for the future, but if 
Doreen Sibanda is clear about the 
institution's plans, she appears less clear 
about its name. The publicity material shifts 
from Mutupo Gallery, to Mutupo Totem 
Gallery, to Gallery Mutupo, and declares 
that "we pride ourselves on the name of 
Totem", One can sympathise with the 
dilemma, especially given the intention to 
depict "an integral and cross-cultural 
heritage", but it needs to be solved sooner 
rather than later. 

Less ambiguous — and slightly less central 
— is the Outside Gallery, which opened in 
the garden of Pip Curling's Borrowdale 
home early in February. Like Sibanda, 
Curling has long experience as both artist 
and teacher, but she has chosen to focus her 
gaze rather more narrowly. 

For some years now, Pip Curling has been 
devoting her attention to encouraging artists 
who inhabit the fringes of what we think of 
as 'fine art'. Her exhibition notes call it "art 
without artifice", and properly eschew the 
use of 'naive', 'primitive' and 'folk'. The 
result is a serious and unpatronising venue 
for the likes of Givas Mashiri's papier- 
mache creations. Dexter Nyamainashe's 
wire toys, and the embroidery work of the 
women's group, Kasona Kweinadzimai. 

Can Harare cope with yet more galleries? 
To paraphrase Bernard Shaw: You can have 
enough of boots, and enough of bread, but 
you can never have enough of culture. 
Murray McCartney 

Mutupo: The Totem Gallery 
6 van Praagh Avenue 
Milton Park 
Tel: 705731 

Outside Gallery 
4 Kirkaldy Road 
Tel: 882443. 


< St- -t<.^*>»».»* *"- 

Robert Paul, 
Eighth Street/ 
Livingstone Avenue 






Robert Paul, Barbara Murray (Ed). 
Harare: Colette Wiles, 1996. 
ISBN 0-7974-1614-5 

(Speech given at the book launch at 
Gallery Delta, December 1996) 

Since reading the book whose pubhcation 
we have come to celebrate this evening I 
have kept on returning mentally to Matthew 
Aniold, the nineteenth-century English 
literary and cultural theorist. Arnold argued 
that great art was possible only when artists 
themselves were exposed to a ferment of 
ideas, to debates about multiple ways of 
conceiving and representing reality, in short 
to an atmosphere of critical activity. 

So much has been made of Robert Paul's 
isolation as an artist in the philistine 
Rhodesia of the 1930s and 1940s that he is 
in danger of becoming a figure from a 
vulgarised European Romanticism. For the 
Romantics the artist was an isolated inspired 
genius, prophet and seer standing apart from 
huinanity. Arnold regarded such an idea of 
the artist as preposterous. He argued for art 
as a social activity: the artist like any 
cultured person must know the best that has 
been said and thought at the present time for 
only then could art intelligently explore life. 

As the biographical sections of this book 
show, Paul was frequently depressed and 
withdrawn but then painting or writing is a 
lonely business. The necessary solitariness 
of painting should not be confused with 
intellectual isolation. Something which 
emerges very strongly from Colette Wiles's 
biographical essay on her father — which 
forms the first substantial chapter of the 
book — is just how important to Robert 
Paul's development as artist were his 
furloughs in England. On his first return trip 
in 19.34 he met John Piper with whom he 
was to remain in contact for much of his lile. 
He also travelled to Paris to look al Ihc work 
of Cezanne, Picasso and Braque and 
discovered Pierre Bonnard. In other words 
Paul was never completely cut off from 
developments in liuropean art and in his 
later lile, when he was at his most prolific. 
Patricia Broderick recalls how alter the 
National Gallery library was established 
Paul spent hours there. 

The point that I am making is that the Robert 
Paul who emerges from this book is a tough 
and intelligent professional; endlessly 
searching for technical solutions to problems 
which had arisen in his painting: Martin van 
der Spuy discusses his successful 
experiments with rubber and gum resist; 
Patricia Broderick suggests that the 
discipline of mapping during his early days 
in the police remained with him throughout 
his life. As an accomplished painter he used 
the viewfinder which he would have used on 
his mapping exercises "to help him to frame 
a view ... and [create] a successful and 
dynamic composition within a rectangle." 
Wiles, van der Spuy and Broderick all recall 
his working at particular paintings over a 
number of years but also that he was 
professional enough to leave a painting 
unfinished when the pictorial solutions 
evaded him. 

As Zimbabweans we are of course most 
interested in the painter who more than any 
other artist shaped our visual understanding 
of our townscapes and landscapes and there 
is a great deal in this book to show how Paul 
identified essential features of both and 
proposed ways of representing them. 

Central to Paul's later development was the 
burst of immigration after the Second World 
War which by the 1930s had created a far 
more cosmopolitan Salisbury than the small 
town Paul had come out to in 1927 as a 
young trooper in the British South Africa 
Police. One immigrant was the South 
.Mrican artist Fran(;ois Roux whom Paul met 
in 1952. Roux's chapter in this book, the 
reminiscence by one artist of another, is one 
of its several highlights. Roux it is who 
identifies the particular nature of Paul's 
achievement: the man who left England 
when he was twenty-one never presented 
this country as exotic or tropically 
glamorous. Instead he looked for and found 
in the elements of whatever landscape he 
was reproducing interdependences which he 
realised could be rendered through complex 
relationships of line, tone and colour w illiin 
his paintings. 

Roux is direct about the problems of the 
social artist which confronted Paul as a 
younger painter in this country. He remarks 
that Rhodesians expected that their artists 
should depict only "august objects ... For a 
painting to he good, it had to he a super 
picture postcard, a memento ... The reigning 
motifs were 'balancing roclcs'. plain rx)cks 
were not good enough; msasa trees only 
when in colourful new leaf: 'The Falls' 
when full." (fiOl Eor Roux. Paul's problem 
was to steer a path between "the trite 
j artistic] conventions of colonial society and 
equally futile, uitconsummated flirtings of 
the alntractionists." In fact Roux is wrong 
in that last reiiuirk: Paul certainly 
experimented with abstraction to see 
whether It might provide one of .several 
solutions which he wanted. 

The challenge Zimbabwe's landscape 
presented to Paul has recurred all over the 
world where people from Europe have tried 
to come to terms with what was for them a 
new world. Paul, according to Roux, found 
"form, cohesion, variety, vitality' in the 
apparent nothingness "of nondescript grans 
and scrubby bushes." 

Paul's technique in providing that cohesion 
and form is given an extended coverage in 
Martin van der Spuy's chapter. Van der 
Spuy begins his chapter with what is an 
important observation. "While Paul learned 
from painters such as Cezanne, Piper, 
Hitchens or Van Gogh" van der Spuy 
writes, "if is less a case of inspiration than 
of responding to certain challenges." Paul 
in other words was not interested in copying 
the techniques of European painters but 
rather in seeing whether in their work 
techniques were available which would 
allow him to rise to what his artistic 
intelligence was challenged by. His 
challenge was how to render in paint what 
he saw in Zimbabwe and among van der 
Spuy's several masterly analyses 1 draw your 
attention to his discussion of four paintings 
of jacarandas, that subject which has to be 
placed alongside balancing rocks and msasas 
as one of our iconic cliches. Paul's 
jacarandas, which are illustrated with 
excellent colour reproductions which 
characterise the plates throughout the entire 
book, refuse the fluffy clouds of mauve 
which so often seem to be competing with 
landscapes of European spring orchards. 
Only one of the four in fact shows the trees 
in full bloom and there the blossom is 
reduced to abstraction, patches of pale 
purple light against a black storm-filled sky. 
A second of the pictures is dominated by a 

crossroad — the jacarandas are almost 
incidental. A third in van der Spuy's words 
"is of jacarandas in winter when their leaves 
turn yellow and the sky is hazy with grass 
smoke."(69) Not only does Paul refuse the 
beguiling colours of the trees but he 
correctly places his jacarandas in the dry and 
hard context of that period before the rains. 

However important Roux may have been to 
Paul, no individual can ever provide the 
exchange of ideas which I spoke about at the 
beginning. For Paul this came with the 
founding of the Rhodes National Gallery 
under Frank McEwen. Some of the more 
moving moments in Wiles's biographical 
essay are those where Paul, always diffident 
about his abilities, finds that his work was 
appreciated by people accustomed to judge 
artistic excellence in a much wider context 
than Rhodesia could possibly provide. 
McEwen exhibited one of Paul's paintings at 
the Imperial Institute in London where it 
was greatly admired. But Wiles suggests 
that Paul himself only recognised his power 
as a painter when Brian Bradshaw who was 
visiting director to the Gallery mounted a 
retrospective exhibition of Paul's work in 
1976. Wiles recalls him saying after he had 
examined the two-hundred and fifty 
paintings with their enormous diversity of 
styles, media and subjects: "7 was amazed 
when I saw them there. They looked so 
nice."' (54) If after his retrospective, Paul 
had any continued doubts about his abilities, 
and Patricia Broderick's essay shows that he 
often did, these should have been laid to rest 
by his being honoured in 1980 by an 
exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum. 
Unfortunately he was already too sick to 
travel to Pretoria for the exhibition and died 
months later. 

Several points must be made about the 
publication of this book. It is singularly 
appropriate that it should be launched here at 
Gallery Delta. Most obviously because it 
was here in his house for forty years that so 
much of Paul's work was produced. From 
all accounts the garden was a tangle and the 
house often chaotic but from tangle and 
chaos painting after painting emerged 
providing visual order and shape which 
allow us to see Zimbabwe anew. But this 
location for the book launch is also 
appropriate because it is here that Gallery 
Delta is now established. Delta over the 
years has provided a site where critical 
discrimination and selection are continually 
taking place in the act of mounting the 
exhibitions of the quality which we have 
come to expect. These exhibitions are an 
essential part of the ferment of ideas which I 
spoke about before. They are criticism in 
action. That implicit critical activity is also 
made explicit from here in Gallery magazine 
which Delta publishes. In Gallery at last is a 
Zimbabwean forum where art is debated, 
standards explored, theories explained and 
all are tested on paintings made accessible 
through an invariably high standard of 
reproduction. This book can now be added 
to that critical activity: it is an important step 
in moving us on that long road from the 
amateur and the provincial to the 
professional and the metropolitan. Artistic 
biography, technical and formal analyses 
allow much of the complex power of Paul's 
achievement to emerge. In Matthew 
Arnold's words, through this book, we begin 
to know Paul's paintings as belonging to the 
best that has been said and thought in our 
country. Anthony Chennells 

forthcoming events and exhibitions 

Crossroads at Gallery Delta in April will be 
looking at new work by George Churu, 
Tendai Gumbo, Crispen Matekenya, 
Shepherd Mahufe and others. This will 
be followed on 13 May by Tracks in Africa, 
an exhibition of paintings by Helen 
Kedgley and textiles by Suzy 
Pennington, which is centred on the 
experiences of these two New Zealand 
artists in Africa. Richard Jacl< takes 
centre stage in June with a solo show of 
recent graphics and sculptures. 

Architectural Designs, for the Catholic 
University Competition, will be on show at 
the National Gallery in Harare in early April. 
Running concurrently will be a group 
exhibition entitled Double Vision-Culture- 
Time-Colour including work by Bulelwa 
Madekurozva and Chiko Chazunguza 
From the 16 April Ishmael Wilfred will 
hold a one man show and opening on 23 

April is an exhibition of posters by Chaz 
Maviyane-Davies entitled Rights. Work 
by final year BAT Students will be on 
show in May as will photographs of the San 
Bushmen by Paul Weinberg. June .sees 
the opening of the annual Schools Exhibi- 

A Woman's Place is the title of the next 
exhibiton at Mutupo: The Totem Gallery 
including works by Harry Mutasa, Chico 
Chazunguza. Joseph Muzondo and 
Tendai Gumbo. In mid-April there will be 
a group show, Independence ... 17 views, 
and from mid-May Itayi Njagu will have a 
one man show. 

From 27 March to mid-April, Isabelle Sig, 
a French painter who has been living in 
Mozambique for three years, and Zephania 
Tshuma will have work on display, entitled 
African Chronicles, at Pierre Gallery. 

Following this in May, Lucky Mutebi, a 
young figurative painter from Kenya will be 

Outside Gallery will be having an open day 
on 1 3 April including works by their resident 
artists as well as other offerings to raise 
funds for the Buddhist Centre. 

In April, the National Gallery in Bulawayo 
will be showing photographs of Daily Life 
in Zimbabwe by renowned French photogra- 
pher, Philippe Gaubert, as well as work 
by the Bulawayo Polytech students of 
Applied Art and Design. Zambian graphic 
artist, Patrick Mweembe, will exhibit 
prints during May and in June, Beverley 
Gibbs will have a solo show. Art From the 
Midlands, also in June, will feature work by 
Tapfuma Gutsa, Costa Mkoki, Nicole 
Gutsa and other artists from the Gweru 
region. 25 

,-.:,-^':%i1iv-'-', ,j;.rv• 


/ S 





The art magazine from Gallery Delta ^^ 

No 12 

Sponsoring art for Zimbabwe 

Gallery Delta, the publistier and the editor gratefully acknowledge 
the following sponsors who have contributed to the production 
of this issue of Ga/te.'y magazine: 



The Rio Tinto Foundation 



Joerg Sorgenicht 




s u I t a : 

■ '■ -x. 






I • 



i ttf iii ftilWtt 


June 1997 

Depicting Human Rights : prints from South Africa 
by Raison Naidoo 




Crossroads by Derek Huggins 

Image and Form by Margaret Garlake 

Mbile International Artists" Workshop, Zambia : brief notes 
by Barbara Munay 

A Woman's Place : images of women in Zimbabwean society 
by Christine Sylvester 

Tracks in Africa: works by Helen Kedgley and 
Suzy Pennington by Frances Marks 

Still Searching: works by Sithabile Mhlotshwa 
by Busani Bafana 

25 Forthcoming events and exhibitions 

Cover: Marlene Dumas, Billy Holiday (6 parts), 1994, 

35 X 3 1cm each, ink on paper 
Left: Suzy Pennington, Crossroculs, 1997, acrylic, collage 

and procion dye on flax 

© Gallery Publications 

Publisher: Derek Huggins. Editor: Barbara Murray. Design & Layout: 
Myrtle Mallis. Origination: HPP Studios. Printing: A.W. Bardwell & Co. 
Paper: Magno from Graphtec Ltd. 

Contents are the copyright of Gallery Publications and may not be reproduced 
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The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writers 
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Articles are invited for submission. Please address them to The Editor. 

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Art can be a powerful catalyst for change 
and development within both the collective 
and the individual human psyche. Riason 
Naidoo, artist and education officer with the 
Durban Art Gallery, writes from South Africa 

When the Images of Human Rights Poilfolio opened at the Durban 
Art Gallery on International Human Rights Day. 10 December 1996, 
it was billed in a national newspaper as the most prestigious local 
arts gathering of the year. This was not surprising considering the 
line up of events for the opening which included dance, poetry 
reading and live music. The exhibition was opened by Albie Sachs. 
Justice of the Constitutional Court and long-time anti-apartheid 
campaigner, who gave a sincere and emotional speech that was 
greatly appreciated by the audience — an estimated 500 people 
turned up at the gallery that night. Simultaneous openings were 
going on at the Oliewenhuis Art Gallery in Bloemfontein. the King 
George VI Art Gallery in Port Elizabeth and the Tathum Art Gallery 
in Pietermaritzburg. It is also interesting to note, and appropriate 
enough, that the new South African Constitution had been signed by 
President Nelson Mandela only a few hours before the opening. 

The portfolio contains twenty nine prints created by artists chosen by 
regional galleries. Twenty seven prints were commissioned i.e. one 
each for the twenty seven clauses of the Bill of Rights. Of the two 
other prints, one is the frontispiece and one the endpiece of the 
portfolio. A national relief print competition was organised for the 
frontispiece with the winning entry created by Norman Kaplan, who 
incidentally had also been chosen by the King George VI Gallery in 
Port Elizabeth to depict Clause Two of the Bill of Rights. One South 
African newspaper quoted Kaplan as saying that his idea was to try 
to show the coming together of all the race groups in the country, the 
forging of the rainbow nation, the forward movement and the march 
of the people in the new dispensation. Kaplan, who left the country 
after the 1976 uprising and established himself as a graphic designer 
and film maker in the UK. now works and lives in Poil Elizabeth. 

The twenty-ninth print, the endpiece. was done by .Ian .lordaan. an 
established artist, lecturer and printmakcr from the Technikon Natal 
Fine Arts Department. Jordaan's work is a fitting closure to the 
portfolio as he had handprinted all the works of art (some 1628 
prints) free of charge and for this contribution he must be 

The participating artists reflect the range and depth of art in South 
Africa and while some artists have a strong academic backgroimd. 
others are self-taught; there is also adequate representation from both 
rural and urban areas. The images are impressive in their vitality 
and diversity of expression, as well as in the variety of techniques 
and creative approaches in interpreting the different clauses of the 
Bill of Rights. Participating artists include Azaria Mbatha. William 
Zulu, Andrew Verster, Thami Jali. Phillippa Hobbs. Vendant 
Nanackchand and Dominic Thorburii to rumic hut a few. 

Clause One of the Bill of Rights is 
"Equality". This is depicted by Margaret 
Gradwell who is a lecturer in the Fine \n 
Department at the University of Pretoria. 
The artist has titled her woodcut A Fair Deal 
and seems to focus mainly on the 
relationship between uonian and man. The 
third paragraph of Clause One states that 
people may not be discriminated against on 
the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, 
marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, 
sexual orientation, age. disability, religion, 
conscience, belief, culture, language or birth. 
Gradwell has represented these issues in 
small icons arranged in a circle that forms a 
frame around the central image of a woman 
and a man holding hands. There are 
seventeen aspects in all which seem also to 
refer to the signs of the zodiac. The circle 
can be interpreted as a unifying factor which 
is echoed by the spiral in the background that 
forms another visual link belween the two 
figures. The central figures appear to be 
male and female archetypes rather than 
specific individual representations and can 
therefore be read as a comment on the 
universal relationship between the two. The 
figures seem to be united in a gesture of love 
that may not necessarily refer to marriage. 
The image has a sacred, ritualistic feel that is 
emphasised by the stylistic and iconic 
representation: the artist has further 
accentuated the sacred t|ualil> by making full 
use of the grainy quality that a woodcut can 
provide to give the work an ancient and aged 
look. Gradwell is cleariy influenced by 
ancient art forms and the symbolism 
associated w ill) llieiii. 

Human Rights 

hm Miirley's depiction of Clause Five of the 
Bill of Rights, "Slavery, servitude and forced 
labour", is an interesting and unique 
interpretation. The image is entitled 
Scn-itude is like the tide, it clumges. Marley 
says that slavery and servitude are ongoing 
problems that are always changing and that 
these evils have to be guarded against 
constantly. His interpretation does not 
succumb to the literal association one might 
readily conjure up but rather uses a poetic 
analogy: a businessman who seems to be 
drowning. Marley employs the image of a 
modem man in a suit and tie to demonstrate 
servitude to a capitalist society that is 
obsessed with money. The businessman is 
seen as a slave to the society and its 
pressures, with which he complies. The 
head of the figure, normally associated with 
Midividuality, is completely covered by a 
helmet with ox-like horns, emphasising 
blind conformity to the world in which he 
lives. The artist sees slavery, servitude and 
forced labour as problems that are part of 
our modern world and found at all levels of 
society. (M;irley was bom m H)65 in 
Gibraltar and came to South Africa as a 
child. He completed a National Higher 
Diploma in Fine Art at Vaal Triangle 
Technikon and is currently a lecturer at the 
Free State Technikon in Bloemfontein.) 

(top) Ian Marley, Servitude Is Like The Tide, It 
Changes (Clause 5 of the Bill of Rights "Freedom 
from slavery, servitude and forced labour"), 1996, 
51.6 X 35.5cm, woodcut 

(below) Margaret Gradwell, A Fa/r Dea/ (Clause 1 
of the Bill of Rights "Equality"), 1996, 34.5 x 30,4cm, 

Jonathan Comerford, Freedom of 
Association (Clause 10 of the Bill of 
Rights), 1996, 39.5 x 29.5cm, linocut 

JciiKilhan Comert'ord was chosen to depict 
Clause Ten which is "Freedom of 
association'". Uniilce the other two work.s 
discussed this is a linocut (of the twenty nine 
vsorks, nineteen are linocuts the rest being 
woodcut or relief etching). Comerford's 
image is immaculate in its technique and 
presents a fine example to future artists who 
intend working in the medium. Not only is 
the image technically sound but the 
composition is also satisfyingly secure being 
based on the age old principles of balance 
and unity. The image is centred on two pairs 
of hands facing in opposite directions and 
visually united atthewnsis h\ bangles 
(inspired b\ the artist\ own adornment )- 
The upper pan of hands is shown in a fuiii 
clasp where both hands are tense in 
comparison to the lower hands which are 
more relaxed and seem to be more in an 
embrace. This symbol of unity is surrounded 
by human figures that represent a di\ersit\ ol 
people. The whole image is united as one 
sculptural piece and stands out boldly against 
the background, like a stamp on a blank 
piece of paper (Comerford was born in 
Cape Town in 1961 . He graduated from the 
Ruth Prowse School of Art and spent two 
years in print workshops in Scotland before 
returning to Cape Town to set up Hard 
Ground Printmakers. His work is 
represented in most major public collections 
around South Africa.) 

The Images of Human Rights Portfolio is more than an exhibition of 
prints of "art for art's sake". It is part of a greater art project 
coordinated by Ainnesty International-South Africa, the Durban Art 
Gallery and master printmaker Jan Jordaan along w ith \ olunteers 
from related organisations such as Artists for Human Rights. A 
portfolio of the twenty nine prints, in a limited edition of fifty, can be 
bought for RIO 000. The money raised from the sale of portfolios 
(monitored in a trust fund and accessed solely through Amnesty 
International-South Africa) will be used to provide human rights 
education primarily for the youth of South Africa. 

To show its commitinent to human rights awareness the Durban Art 
Gallery extended the exhibition's run until 16 February. With the 
portfolio already being exhibited at the aforementioned galleries in 
December 1996. it was also shown at the South African National 
Gallery in Cape Town, the Pretoria Art Museum, and the University 
of Durban Westville Art Gallery on National Human Rights Day 
(South Africa). 21 March 1997. The portfolio will also be exhibited 
at the Rhodes University Annex Gallery as part of the Standard Bank 
National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July and thereafter 
displayed at the Albany Museum, also in Grahamstown. Such w ide 
showing of the portfolio clearly demonstrates the support of the 
visual arts community to the improvement of human rights in South 

This exhibition of black and white images is indeed powerful and 
evocative. It reveals the potential and the power of art as a commu- 
nicating tool in the world. The Images of Human Rights Portfolio is 
a testament to the goodwill of the human spirit. Il augurs well for 
the arts in South Africa. 

Note: The Human Rights Porllolio exhibition can be viewed on the 

internet on the Durban Art Gallery website at: 

hltp://durbanel. a/tec. CO. /;i/exhib/dag/hr 

People interested in buying a portfolio can contact the Durban Art 

Gallerv: Tel (0.^1 ) .^00 62.16 Fax (0.11 ) .100 6.1.10 

Derek Muggins, 

owner and director 

of Gallery Delta, 

looks at the developments 

over time and the works of 

a group of painters who 

are finding their way 

forward in Zimbabwe 

structures replace pole and dagga huts in the veld, 
as settlements and growth points emerge, as the 
wild places become the weekend playgrounds of the 
rich from around the world. And along with it all 
the people absorb into their culture, while 
maintaining their tradition, that which they will and 
what is useful to them and what they must to 
survive. And if there be perception and sensibility 
and honesty the artist must reflect these changes. 
Those in the West who have an interest in 
contemporary art in Africa should be receptive to 
this change even if it infringes upon their vision of 
Africa ... the Old Africa ... the Dark Continent ... 


Reviewing the exhibition Changing Directions in 

June 1996. Andrew Whaley used the phrase "At 

Crossroads'". He interpreted this as meaning that 

the artists were themselves changing in their 

directions rather than that the roads they have 

chosen are changing the direction of art in 

Zimbabwe. When contemplating a title for a 

follow-up exhibition by the same group of artists 

this year. Crossroads seemed relevant and 

appropriate still, for a number of reasons ... 

Africa is in change. Zimbabwe is in change. 

These artists are the product of change and their 

work reflects change and there is conflict 

between the old and the new and thus we are at 

crossroads. That there is always change is 

inevitable and undeniable, but the pace of 

change, with a new peace throughout the 

southern African region, has quickened. 

Economic progress, modernisation and 

development accelerate and with such the 

elements of opportunity and chance increase and 

with them the probability for difference grows 

accordingly and some traditional and cultural 

conflicts are inevitable. We are victim or 

beneficiary of those changes. Old boundaries are 

pushed back with the effects of education, 

communications networks and information 

technology. There is settlement in virgin lands as 

the eradication of the tsetse fly becomes complete 

and suddenly there are too many elephant in the 

inhospitable Zambezi Valley which is now 

hospitable to settlers. There is a need to 

subscribe to a cash economy and to earn money 

to live rather than to be dependent on subsistence 

farming and barter. The penetration by the 

foreign media on all channels of communication 

is insistent and the influence of the world ever 

increases and along with it the influx of foreign 

visitors. Harare is a fast growing city with all the 

good that may bring, and all the evils also. The 

old Africa is vanishing as inroads are made into 

the terrain, as the land is fenced, as brick-built 

and its art which is not lost but undergoing change 
as surely as art has always undergone change and 
which, if it is good and to be lasting, has always 
been regarded initially with suspicion and reserve 
and even rejection. 

The artists of the Crossroads Exhibition are central 
to this present critical juncture. All of them, now 
aged between about 28 and 33 years, grew up and 
were schooled in part during colonialism, all knew 
conflict and war in their younger years and all 
experienced the excitement of Independence from 
colonial rule while at an impressionable age. All 
must have had the dreams and aspirations that went 
with that moment of Independence and all, no 
doubt, learned that the struggle for them was to 
continue. Further, all obtained a basic art 
foundation training against a high density urban 
background. Rudimentary though this education 
was, as compared to a four year university degree in 
other countries, it was an improvement over the 
past. The initial training of young artists is, 
however, just part of a process. Not all finish the 
course. Luis Meque, for example, after about a year 
at the BAT Workshop was expelled for a 
misdemeanour. They are students and they finish as 
students and their work is student quality, and the 
danger of them foundering, in the after-school 
vacuum without means of income or access to any 
form of state/public funding for art. is immense. 
As it happened, some students found their way into 
commercial art and advertising, into publishing 
houses as illustrators, some failed and a few 
managed to find their way as fine artists. 

From the early days of Gallery Delta, one of our 
projects has been to hold annually, in the new year 
of every year, a Students" and Young Artists" 
Exhibition. This meant searching out and attracfing 
the young, scrutinising their work, showing the best 
and most promising, and thereafter, singling out the 
most talented and challenging and involving them 
further. Initially, the young were mainly whites 

Luis Meque at Gallery Delta (photograph courtesy Galerie Munsterland) 

who had committed themselves to ail 
education in universities and polytechnics in 
South Africa or overseas, or those who. 
unable for lack of funds, were still involved 
locally. Given a decade however, towards 
the mid-eighties, these Students" and Young 
Artists' Exhibitions were dominated by 
young black African artists drawn from 
Helen Lieros at Ilsa College, from Tapfuma 
Gutsa's Utonga at Tafara. froin Paul Wade at 
the BAT Workshop and from Mzilikazi Art 
and Craft Centre in Bulawayo which 
Stephen Williams was managing at that 
lime. And it was from this matrix that some 
semblance and vision of the future of 
contemporary black African visual art — 
graphics and painting — in the country 
could begin to be discerned. 

One of the early young painters we placed 
some faith in was Fungai Makamanzi but he 
opted for a commercially oriented career and 
was lost to us. Iki Muringai was another 
Richard Witikani. Luis Meque. Keston 
Beaton. Crispen Matekenya Ishmael 
Wilfred and George Churu were members of 
the BAT Workshop contingent in the late 
eighties who participated in these 
exhibitions. There seemed to be a good crop 
at that time. The works were mainly 
graphics but a painting by Richard Witikani 
is recaWed.Washing Line, in predominantly 
orange and red. and a mental note was made 
that here was a painter to be. It was 
however, to Luis Meque. who was down and 
out having been expelled from the BAT 
Workshop, who came one day and while 
viewing his most recent work on the lloor of 
the gallery courtyard at Robert Mugabe 
Road, that I was given to say, "You are a 
painter. 1 can help you if you are prepared to 
work. Go and draw anything and everything 
that interests you ... people in all attitudes of 
life and work and play ... standing, walking, 
silting, lying, eating and drinking, at home, 
in the streets, on the buses, at work, in the 
markets. And come back in two months" 
lime."" Returning in due lime he produced 
hundreds of sketches and draw ings. It was 
the sign to begin to promote Luis Meque up 
the scale into group exhibitions of increasing 
standard and this we began in 1990. 

Il lakes three to five and possibly seven 
years to grow out an artist after studies; time 
for them to find themselves, to find a visual 
language and a skill and proficiency to 
malch and have them gain some recognition 
and acceptance. It is a slow and patient 
endeavour which entails frequent contact, 
scrutiny and selection of the best work, 
critical analysis, exhibition proniolioii and 
exposure and indeed financial support by 
way of loans or ad%anccs or other means ol 
bridging finance during the Irequeiil times 
when there are no sales to pro\ ide lor the oft 
crisis. It is a labour and severely tries the 
resources of an unsubsidised private gallery. 
Luis Meque. perhaps because of his despair 
and frustration and bcuig on the streets ot 
Mufakosc. accepted gladly the challenges 

wIiIlIi were offered and vsorked very hard. 
In his early paintings most of his subject 
matter was taken from Mufakose and the 
streets of Harare. In a sense he continued 
where Kingsley Sambo had terminated a 
decade before, using the same subject matter 
but in different way and invoking it with 
more mood, feeling, atmospherics and 
expression. He was to enjoy success, even 
with his early paintings when he was still 
trying to find himself and a way forward. 
Des Gibson collected a few of these from 
The Other Side at our old space where they 
were exhibited in the Summer Show of 
December 1990. The effect of this was. I 
think, cyclonic for Luis Meque and the other 
young artists of his ilk who were observing 
his progress intently. They suddenly realised 
and took faith that there was a chance for the 
painters no matter how difficult the way 
forward ... they did not have to become 
Shona Sculptors to survive. I think this was 
a major turning point, the beginning of a 
revolution for the black painters. 

But these were still early times in the 
process ... everything had to grow up and 
out. From early 1992. in addition to the 
Students" and Young Artists' Exhibitions, we 
commenced a series of shows — one or two 
a year — entitled initially New Directions in 
Contemporary African Art in Zimbabwe I to 
about 5 into which we brought Luis Meque 
and a few of his select contemporaries. 
These led to Different Directions and then 
Changing Directions and. in turn, to 
Crossroads; promoting them as a group 
because of their common background and 
intent. And into these shows, growing out of 
the Students' Exhibitions, came Fasoni 
Sibanda and Hillary Kashiri out of the BAT 
Workshop during the early nineties, as well 
as the likes of Cosmos Shiridzinomwa and 
Tendai Gumbo who trained at the Harare 
Polytechnic also during the nineties. 

Stemming from this series of exhibitions, we 
were able on merit and standard to elevate 
Luis Meque into our Prominent Artists' 
Exhibitions, another annual, and at the 
selection of Ingrid Raschke-Stuwe of the 
Galerie Munsterland at Emsdetten. 
Germany, into an international exhibition 
and subsequently, to offer him and Richard 
Witikani one-man exhibitions. 

Crossroads, shown at Gallery Delta in April, 
is the latest in the series of exhibitions of the 
work of this group of painters — the product 
and culmination of almost a decade. What 
of it? Has it been worth the effort? Does it 
all stand the test? Is it valid? Is it new and 
different, involving and invoking change? 

George Churu and Ishmael Wilfred take the 
prime space. Ishmael Wilfred, who was 
slow to evolve his own particular and 
distinctive visual language, shows three 
works whose titles — The Desperate 
Cannibals. Monsters and Bearing the 
Offering — speak for themselves. He is 

Ishmael Wilfred, Bearing the Offering, 1997, 110 x 110cm, mixed media 

(left) George Churu, Waiting For Decision, 1997, 102 x 81cm, mixed media 
(right) George Churu, The Landlord, 1997, 101 x 65cm, mixed media 

immersed, in his imaginings and feelings, in 
the nether world, the realm of the 
spiritualistic, of the dominions and 
principalities that are ditTiciilt, particularly 
as an African, to speak about and to depict 
because they are the reserve of the secret 
society, the witchdoctor, of superstition and 
rite, charin and curse and fetish, as old as the 
black peoples of Africa and invoking much 
of tradition and custom that has been 
concealed from Western eyes. But 
courageously, he gives image to them, in 
yellows and greens and reds, in a self- 
purging analysis of these real fonns of his 
dreams and in an effort to rid himself of their 
mystery, their domination and fearful 
qualities and as explanation of the 
misfortune which has befallen him. Bearing 
ihc Offering, his largest painting so far, is a 
splendid work in its strength and rhythms 
and its bold colours, and is about sacrifice 
and his own personal crossroads. 

By extreme contrast, George Churn's works, 
several in oil on canvas, seem to reflect a 
futuristic vision of an Africa beyond 2000, 
of dwellings with arches inhabited by people 
in rich and exotic clothing looking out on an 
African landscape — Vi'aUing for a Decision 
— implies that bureaucracy never changes. 
His Landlord, an imposing, stem and 
totemic figure juxtaposed against modern 
housing, predominantly in blues, which 
climbs a hillside and is of an unusual 
architecture, seems to anticipate an 
overcrowded, polluted and grim future. He 
must be speaking out of real experience. His 
Divorced Woman is as a mask that has been 
exaggerated. It is distorted and cubistic. It 
seems to have come naturally and 
spontaneously and not as an afterthought or 
copy of Picasso who borrowed from the 
African mask. George has himself been 
divorced. Good with graphics, particularly 
woodcut, he accelerated his own change and 
new direction in about 1 994 by the use of 
collage; taking scraps from coloured pages 
of magazines and arranging and sticking 
them into forms in his sketch book. Later he 
painted them out. The results had a surreal 
feeling with diagonal and sweeping angular 
lines and strokes full of tension. His search 
for subject matter takes him to the landscape 
also and he is capable of producing 
exceptional imaginative compositions of 
rocks and veld and hills which may include 
the hut and the odd figure. George Churu. 
small and slight of stature with perpetual 
charm and ready smile, is a progressive. 
He is the leader of his own church. He 
prospects for gold too, and has pegged a 
claim and is mining ore but still searching 
for a good seam with enough pennyweights 
to ensure viability. Art is a game of chance 
but so is gold mining, as he has discovered 
in this last season of phenomenal rains and 
flooded mine shafts. But he continues to 
laugh, and something of what he earns 
from his art is transformed into picks and 

.Shepherd Mahufe shows us life in the 
growth point at Juru on the road out of 
Harare towards Murewa where he is 
normally resident and which has become 
characteristic of his work. Shepherd, 
inexplicably rendered deaf and inute at the 
age of four, attended a special school in 
Gweru. He is able to sign, and read and 
write and to cotnmunicate amazingly well. 
His is a cheerful and popular personality 
within a strong and muscular frame — he 
plays rugby and has represented his country 
— and is the leader and hero of a deaf 
community based at Juru which, no doubt, 
he flnancially supports in part. He has never 
sought sympathy because of his disability ... 
it is never mentioned or acted upon ... he 
simply gets on and does. He will try and 
experiment with everything. He is good 
with graphics, particularly the woodcut, and 
has turned his hand to weld art and ceramics. 
An anecdote from his times at Helen Lieros" 
studio: he had fashioned some hollow busts 
with mask-like faces from clay and when 
dry had painted them with PVA as a 
substitute for glaze and then disappeared to 
the yard. Given some time there was an 
explosion. Shepherd appeared before his 
tutor looking disappointed. When asked 
what had happened he shrugged and made a 
face and gesture of bewildered hopelessness 
with his hands and, exhaling air, made a 
"pauff ■ sound. He had put his treasures in a 
dustbin, loaded it with paper and set fire to 
all. He lost most of his work but some 
survived and the resultant fiery 
ainalgamation and crusting effects of the 
paint were unique. He has now become 
known as a painter In depicting the life and 
surrounds of a growth point he works 
through themes in series. We have seen 
people crossing the road, uniformed children 
on their way to school, water-carriers, 
abandoned and derelict vehicles — old 
Chevies. Morris Minors and Fords and 
Mercs — and the landscape of the 
surrounding rural area with granite gonio 
and bush and brick-built dwelling. 

In this exhibition he turns his attention to ihc 
nameless local butcher, a big and bearded 
man complete with traditional Western 
striped apron who .stands to his electric- 
driven cutting machine over a side of beef 
There is no doubt that the figure which 
dominates against the yellow background is 
a real person, a character from Juru who 
would be easily found and identifiable if 
sought out. The feeling exists that this 
butcher is as imponant to ShephertI Maluilc 
as was the postman to Van Gogh. He 
reinforces this interest in the butchery with a 
painting of the butcher's a.ssistant who leans 
back lazily while weighing out steaks and 
further by a still life of a hanging side of 
beef which inevitably recalls Soutine. 
Would Mahufe know his work'.' "Probably." 
says Helen Lieros. "I often talk art history 
to my students. Soutine is one of my 
favourites. But Shepherd's question always 


Shepherd Mahufe, Butchery, 1997, 
117 X 83cm, mixed media 

George Churu, Divorced Woman, 1997, 
approx. 55 x 45cm, mixed media 

(above right) Shepherd 

Mahufe, Beef, 1997, 44 x 36cm 

mixed media 

(right) Shepherd Mahufe, 

Butcher, 1997, approx. 

50 X 45cm, mixed media 

Richard Witikani, Suzen, 1997, 89 x 70cm, oil on paper 

Fasoni Sibanda, Gambling, 1997, 82 x 93cm, mixed media 

wiis Why dii we need to know about the 
work of dead artists' What about now?" 

By contrast, the painter undertakes The 
Wcihling. oil on canvas, as alternative 
subject matter and here we are confronted by 
the happv couple in Western apparel outside 
the reception hall. Between the bride and 
groom, in the background among the 
attending crowd, are two ominous and 
ghoul-like faces which rather dampen the 
spirit of the occasion and make us wonder 
w hether the painter approves of matrimony. 
He is unmarried. But in an accompanying 
pair of smaller works on paper there is 
luippiness as the couple dance their way up a 
hill ... and these have all the charm and 
feeling of post-impressionism from eastern 

Now to turn to Richard Witikani who 
recently, in February this year, had an 
mipressive solo show entitled Country Life. 
.After leaving the BAT Workshop Richard 
had pursued his artistic quest while earning a 
living decorating ceramics. Drawing from 
life — the people around him, his family 
members and neighbours and fellow workers 
— he translated them into oil and canvas and 
oil on board in small format. He continued 
with his graphics also by means of mono- 
prints, depicting the people at nearby Ruwa. 
at the stores, waiting for the buses and other 
forms of human activity. Within the last 
year or two he has taken, with great success, 
to opening out on a wider and broader 
format his painting of the rural countryside 
and its people. In the odd past work — for 
example. Reading the Newspaper, there is a 
hint of Cezanne, and in others a flavour of 
the exotic fervour of Gauguin, and when 
asked if he knew the work of these painters 
confirmed that he was an admirer of 
Ce/.unne but knew nothing of Gauguin. 
Richard is tall and good looking, of sober 
and responsible habit and is married. We 
have come to know his wife. Amai Dudzai, 
and his children, his friends and fellow 
workers including James The Potter. 
through his paintings. He has the ability to 
imbue what might be regarded by many as 
ordinary people involved in mundane 
activities with a special sense i.-'i stature and 
capture them for posterity. Helen Lieros 
talks of his unerring sense of composition 
with enthusiasm. The best work of his on 
this exhibition, one of three, is Suzen. Of 
late. Richard Witikani has left his job at the 
pottery and seeks a small-holding in rural 
Goromonzi to grow crops and to work as a 
professional painter. 

\\\o olhLM artists uitlim the grouping — 
lasoni Sibanda and Hillary Kashiri — are 
the youngest, both aged about 2S years, and 
were at the BAT Workshop during the early 
nineties when Martin van der Spuy and Kate 
Raath were teaching there. Both were born 
and bred and educated w ithin Greater Harare 
and they are city boys to all intents and 
purposes. Fasoni has been resident in ,Scke 

and Chitungwiza — the huge sprawhng high 
density areas some twenty kilometres south 
of the city centre — and from where he has 
tal<en subject and content for his work ... 
people carrying wood, the Seke market 
stalls, people walking through the house- 
lined streets in the dusk who often appear 
anonymous and lonely. He is gifted with an 
unusual and subtle colour sense — pale 
yellow and blue and pink hues within the 
background, and stronger and darker colours 
to effect shade in the foreground as he 
juxtaposes one against the other, working 
against the light. His method is quick, using 
broad strokes to structure his painting and to 
invigorate it with spontaneous markings. 
The best of his work on this exhibition is his 
painting Gamhling which depicts a game of 
pool and it is good for its unusual 
perspective and structure in the background 
and the intensity of the concentration of the 
player in the foreground which travels 
through his arm to the extended and braced 
finger on which he is about to rest his cue. 
Memorable too. was his painting of 
Zengenza 4 Market which won him the 
overall award for the best painter in 1994 
and which illustrates admirably his contre 
jour method of painting. Fasoni Sibanda is 
gifted also with his line — drawings in pen 
and ink — which is vigorous and full of 
tension. He shows in his nervous manner 
the sensitivity of the artist and feels the 
financial pressure of modern living in Harare 
acutely ... and his old yellow Volkswagen 
has had to go. He seeks to establish a 
screen-printing concern for T-shirts to 
suppleiuent his income at which he would 
do well if he was able to obtain the capital. 

Hillary Kashiri increasingly turns to the 
landscape — to broad areas of yellow 
savannah and the rocks and kopjes — for his 
inspiration. He moves away from the social 
commentary seen in for example Going to 
Work, a past painting. Hillary made a 
breakthrough in his awareness of space, 
structure and volume triggered by 
experience of land and sea when attending a 
Thupelo workshop in Cape Town in 199.'S. 
He works acrylics on canvas or thick paper 
and uses his brush in deft and nervous 
dabbing gestures alternated by sweeping 
strokes to effect seiui-abstract paintings with 
good and harmonious use of striking colours 
but is adept too in using the figure, the form 
of which he begins to break up into 
abstraction as in Reunion I and Reunion 2 in 
a previous show. He is thoughtful in his 
attitude to his work and deliberate in his 
application of the paint, leaving less to 
chance and effect. He is tall and lean in 
physique with a bespectacled and studious 
look; he is well educated and possesses 
natural and genial charm. His painting After 
Ruwa on this exhibition is notable for the 
clarity of its colour and the the use of space 
to effect the feeling of the expanse of the 
grasslands to which so many respond for its 
emptiness and vastness. His other paintings 
— Epworth and Domboshawa — reflect this 
mood also. 

"^ >► 

(top) Hillary Kashiri, After Ruwa, 1997, 56 x 76cm, acrylic 
(above) Hillary Kashiri, Epworth, 1997, 20 x 24cm, acrylic 


Luis Meque, Friends Series, 1997, 23 x 16cm, mixed media 

The eldest and most senior member of tlie 
core group under discussion is Luis Meque. 
the painter whose origins are Tete and Beira 
in Mozambique and who was part of the 
diaspora caused by the civil war and who 
sought refuge in Zimbabwe during the mid- 
eighties. He was able to integrate into 
Zimbabwean society, obtain brief foundation 
art training at the BAT Workshop, suffer 
rejection and thereafter become the 
inspiration and pivotal figure and undisputed 
leader in a new era of contemporary black 
African painting in Zimbabwe. 

What Meque did in the space of a few years 
was to create a visual language that summed 
up. through the people and their activities 
and attitudes, life in and about the city, better 
and more completely than any others before 
him. He said once, when talking to Adda 
Gelling: "I am black. I think black. And I 
paint black. " Given to speaking little about 
his work and shunning interviews this was 
revealing. In his early work he would use 
the figure in the foreground against a row of 
shanty houses or a landscape but as time 
passed he simplified the form by enlarging 
the figures and allowing them to dominate 
the painting and then as time progressed to 
iiiuilmalise them. He came to this by use of 
the larger format, the big brush and his 
inherent intent to apply the paint with quick, 
spontaneous gestures after looking long and 
hard, and through his desire to gradually 
move liiwards abstraction. Tliere is hardly a 
city scene which has not met his .scrutiny 
and he has taken us over the years from the 
Midakose streets and their poverty to nights 
out with the boys in the restaurants and bars 
and clubs and tlesh-pots of the inner city. 
His one-man exhibition Life on the Line in 
1 9% said much of this. Other painters 
seeking to emulate him and working from 
sunilar subject find it difficult to render the 
sante content as elfectively as Meque who is 
able to imbue his work with expression, 
mood and atmospheric. Somehow Meque 
has been there before them. But in this 
exhibition Crossroads, while preparing for a 
forthcoming solo show, he exhibits only a 
tew small works under the title Friends 
Scries, painted on magazine pages, which do 
not rellect him at his impressive. 

Also show ing within this exhibition are 
paintings by Cosmos Shirid/inomwa. Tendai 
Gumbo and Justin Gope and sculptures by 
Crispen Matekenya. Semina Mpofu. Keston 
Beaton, Albert Wachi and Slanle\ Mapfnmo. 

And what do the observers and the critics 
say? Margaret Garlakc, a London-based art 
critic in for a fleeting visit, said that it was a 
huge leap forward in a short period for 
contcmporarN painting in Zniibabwe and 
given twenty years these painters and 
paintings will be of tremendous importance. 


Steve Fuller, an F.nglishman who worked in 
/nnbabwe lor three or four vears and 

\\ ;itched v\ ith interest the gmv\ th of these 
paiiileis. continues to be excited. His 
pertinent obser\;ition: the paintings are more 
concerned with surface than with depth. His 
reaction: don't bother to compare this work 
with that of the West; far rather enjoy it and 
glory in what is happening. His point about 
the comparison to the West is refreshing for 
those of us — the whites — who, stemming 
from a Western tradition find it difficult not 
to compare because of our culture and the 
ine\ itable draw of the metropolis and the 
tendency to wish for its interest and seek its 
sanction — Africa "93 and all of that. We 
must take stock of where we are — we live 
and work in Africa and we must do what we 
have to do as best as we are able with that 
which we have around us and not look over 
our shoulder to the West. We are different 
from the West. We must be ourselves. 
Certainly, these young black painters are 
being theinselves and revelling in their 
beings, in their Africanncss, and in the 
discovery of subject and content in the life 
aroimd them. Luis Meque: "/ iiiii hUick. I 
think black. And I pciiiU hhick." He resists 
looking at a Western art book because he 
does not want to open himself to influence 
but he has travelled. And Shepherd Mahufe 
who questions why he needs know anything 
of dead Western painters. Frankly, they 
don't care. The identification and 
appreciation in their work of the truth of the 
life in contemporary Africa is being 
recognised and they are being 
enthusiastically collected by resident whites 
of all walks of life, as well as by expatriates 
and discerning visitors and collectors. 

With the help of the art institutions — the 
National Gallery and its BAT Workshop, Ilsa 
College and the Harare Polytechnic which 
was to establish a fine art course under the 
leadership of Pip Curling during the early 
nineties — and Gallery Delta, sufficient 
support and encouragement has been found 
to enable a few young painters to practise a 
fine art career and to develop. Their work 
has been exhibited regularly in the Annual 
Exhibition of the National Gallery where 
Luis Meque, Fasoni Sibanda and Ishmael 
Wilfred have each won, and in almost 
successive years, the overall award for best 
painter Theirs has been a concentrated, 
highly competitive learning and exhibition 
process, for some extending over a period of 
nearly ten years, and which makes them 
experienced painters. Their visual language 
is being and will be emulated by others. It is 
interesting to compare their careers at home 
in Zimbabwe over the past ten years with 
those seemingly more fortunate young 
artists, stemming from a similar background 
who were to study outside the country, in 
Canada and Bulgaria for example. In my 
opinion they more than hold their own and 
have, in fact, gained by remaining at home 
and now are the known and confirmed 
leaders in contemporary African painting in 
the country and the founder members of a 

group. The first are always the most 
important ... and these are the first of a new 
expression which continues to develop. 

It is for these young painters to accept 
greater responsibility in furthering the new 
way with courage and to maintain their 
honesty, sincerity and integrity, and 
undertake, in their work, other issues that 
need be looked at also. They are leaders. 
This is their challenge, theirs is the future of 
contemporary African visual art in 
Zimbabwe because they are African, because 
it is their time, because it is theirs to do, and 
because they have all the means to do it 
well, and in doing so. they must in their turn, 
make their contribution to others. 

We have looked at se\en core young black 
Zimbabwean painters. What do they add up 
to in artistic and cultural terms'? At which 
Crossroads are we now? 

Pip Curling, in a recent article, says of this 
Crossroads Exhibition that the young artists 
will ".siiivly he kninvii in the future as the 
School of Harare" . Is it a school? The 
painters themselves have not made any 
endeavour to define their thinking and work 
into statement or manifesto or to vocalise 
such. While there are some common 
denominators in the antecedents, region, 
background and studies, they are not 
working under the influence of a single 
master nor do they practise the same style. 
The grouping has been highly selective for 
puiposes of encouraging standards and a 
form of expression and has evohed. post 
studies, through the life the artists 
experience and the exhibition process. 
Perhaps more time is needed to see if the 
artists themselves wish to coin a name and if 
the future does in fact determine them as a 
group or a school. 

What 1 tend to see and feel, and it may be an 
interesting but difficult discourse, is that we 
are experiencing in Zimbabwe a black 
African post-impressionist and the 
beginnings of an expressionist period m 
painting. This comes about by means of a 
peaceful situation and economic growth, by 
formal tuition in the basics of good drawing 
and painting in the Western tradition, and by 
a new and more acute awareness among the 
young painters of the life around them and 
their situation within it and their need and 
readiness to record it. Their manner of 
expression is neither slick nor amateur, 
neither Western nor idyllic, nor is it geared 
to ready sales. Instead, their painting is bold 
and fearless in colour and content — not 
openly political but perhaps indirectly so as 
a commentary on poverty and the ills in our 
society. It looks closely at life around them 
and is spirited and expressive. This amounts 
to a turning away from the old to the new, 
from the traditional system of tribal etiquette 
with its referral to kraal head, to sub-chief, 
to chief and down again, and from the 

anonymity of the crallsman who never 
signed his name to the growth of the 
indi\ idual. 

And in their quest as painters to record the 
life around them, they are encountering and 
meeting the same and similar artistic 
problems and challenges that confronted the 
exponents of post-impressionism and 
expressionism in Europe and finding 
solutions in the same or similar manner. 
Should this be so. does it matter? We know 
that the posl-inipressionists borrowed from 
the Japanese and that Picasso and his 
contemporaries borrowed from Africa to 
effect cubism and that these are accepted 
without challenge. So what if black African 
artists find their way into what is for them 
and Africa a new way? They are engaged 
and may come out with some different 
solutions and some new ways. 

They are black Africans and despite a 
hundred years of colonial influence they 
retain their Africanness and which, in any 
event, makes their work different — the 
subject and content may be universal but the 
view, the approach and the colour is a 
continent away. That there will be those 
who subscribe only to the old African art. to 
the view that Africa should continue to be 
'authentic' and without influence, is certain, 
but they are out of their time ... and are 
guilty of the same accusations which were 
levelled at the colonialists, those of failing to 
educate and failing to recognise the right of 
self determination. There has inevitably 
been influence in the assessment of that 
which is seen to be good and exhibited, but 
as regards the actual choice of subject and 
content and expression the artists have foilfid 
their own way in a contemporary modern- 
day situation. The whole process has been 
one of attempt and gradual growth and 
continuing experiment. 

What is certain is that black African 
contemporary painting in Zimbabwe, atler a 
slow and torturous start — the Cyrene 
Mission School of the forties and fifties, the 
Mzilikazi School and the Workshop School 
of the sixties — has come into its own. In 
this some of us can exhale a deep and 
thankful sigh of relief and take pleasure in 
the new and different. 

The fact is that black African painting in 
Zimbabwe has never been stronger, never 
been better and is now established as a 
legitimate and worthy means of expression 
with a future life. 

If there has been influence it comes from 
their training and experience in observing — 
they can look with the eye of an artist in the 
Western tradition, but they see with the eye 
of an African in Africa. 



Following up on the interest generated by Africa '95, the School 
of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of 
London mounted an exhibition of prints, drawings and sculpture 
from southern Africa and Nigeria earlier this year. 




(above) David Koloane, 
Untitled drawing, 1995, 
70 X 100cm, pencil on 

(right) Marlene Dumas, 
Magdelena XII, 1996, 
125 X 71cm, ink on paper 

(left) Bruce Onobrakpeya, 
Orhare Orise (Spirit Well), 
1985-88, 69 X 23cm, 

(next page) Deborah Bell, 
A Rake's Progress (1 of a 
series of 8), 1996, etching 

"/ hope thai the ideii of an 'authentic' 
African art unsullied hy contact with other 
cultures can finally he laid to rest as African 
mtists deveUtp their own voice ami their 
work becomes sufficiently well known to 
create its own context. Artists everywhere 
have always borrowed from anywhere thcx 
can find inspiration: the question is whether 
the art stands for itself not whether the 
imagery is related to forms that resemble 
those found in other cultiire\." 
■ 4 Robert Loder 

"This is not to deny change and 
development: that would he worse than 
silly: hut rather to insist that past and 
present belong in the same story, that it is a 
story of loss and gain, of innovation within 
existing traditions of practice and oj new 
ways of art making. Of course, the 
relatiimship between past and present will 
differ from place lo place as a function of 
complex inlcrworking elements. These will 
include the substance of the traditioits of the 
jHisl. their institutional bases, the luiture 
and expectations of local patronage, the 
adaptability of an older tradition, the 
willingness of artists to experiment, anti so 
on and so lorth: and all this in the I^Mh luul 
2l)th centuries within further contexts oJ 
oppression iuul appropriation." 

John Picton 

"Young artists in a new nation, that is what 
we are! We must grow with the new Nigeria 
and work to satisfi her traditional love for 
art or perish with our colonial past ... This is 
our age of enquiries and reassessment of our 
cultural values. This is our renaissance era! 
... Our society calls for a synthesis of old 
and new. of functional art and art for its own 
stike ..." 

" Techniques arc Just one side oj the nicillcr 
Prints have the capacity to reach many 
people. Therefine the ideas conveyed in 
them become very quickly dispersed. I have 
used the prints to draw attention to inir 
mxlhs. legemls and history, and to present, 
in visual fnins. our time-honoured 
pliilosopliics and to comment on current 
Bruce Onobrakpeya (1985) 



Some quotes from 

the catalogue to 

Image and Form 

selected by Gallery. 

"A new breed of artists has been emerging 
from the community art centres. A 
distinguishing factor between them and the 
older generation is that they are bolder in 
their creative expression and better 
educated. Their expression is in most cases 
uncompromising and reflects their inner- 
most feelings — ;'; does not merely reflect 
the environment as their predecessors ' work 
did. ■■ 
David Koloane (1989) 

"Many of the artists, including one of the 
first to qualify. John Muafangejo. have 
developed Mb